Region’s hospitality sector offers scope for canny investors

Martin Cook, head of valuations and lease advisory matters at KWB

The West Midlands’ hospitality sector may be under unprecedented pressure, but investors are still willing to acquire assets with potential in the right locations, according to a Birmingham property agent.

Martin Cook, head of valuations and lease advisory matters at KWB, the city’s largest independent agency, says he recently received a dozen bids for a Black Country social club.

The New Invention Victory Working Mens’ Club had been in Willenhall since 1950, but changing times saw its custom start to dwindle long before lockdown, and the decline proved impossible to reverse.

“We were pleased to receive the instruction, although equally, it was impossible to judge what the response might be, or what prices people would be looking to pay,” says Cook.

“However, the immediate response was very strong, and even after some decided not to proceed, we still had a dozen formal bids – which would have been excellent a year ago.

“The guide price was £325,000, but the highest bid was just over £350,000, and negotiations then moved smoothly to their conclusion. It was reassuring that, despite the gloom, people are still prepared to invest in hospitality assets.”

The club was acquired by Black Country developer-investor Ginni Singh, who was already working on another major project after acquiring a high-profile Staffordshire pub in early 2020.

Having paid just over £1m to acquire both the New Invention club and the Grade 11-listed Tamworth Arms, he’s now investing another £650,000 on giving them a top-notch refurbishment.

“The Arms is one of Tamworth’s oldest pubs, and it’s also got 21 bedrooms. It was run very successfully by the Walkers for almost 30 years, until they decided to retire in 2020,” says Ginni.

“Lockdown gave us time to reflect on its future, and we decided to proceed with the quality refurb which I think the building and its customers deserve. The build team is there now, and we hope to re-open towards the end of January 2021.”

He was already aware of the club, one of a national network built after World War Two to celebrate the Allied victory.

“I grew up in Willenhall, and for decades, it was a central part of the social scene. I was looking to acquire a second hospitality asset and the size (almost 10,000 sq ft) and location were just right.

“When the team has completed the work at Tamworth, they’ll focus on the New Invention. There’s certainly a demand for a pub serving food in Willenhall, so that will occupy one side, and the new function room will be able to accommodate 300 people.

“The old club used to be very popular for community events and social occasions, so we’re looking to bring leisure activities back. All we need then is a new name, but I don’t think everything will be ready to open before February, so we have plenty of time to think of one.”