AN upmarket North East bar and restaurant operator is set to expand - despite a slump in the beleaguered leisure market which is seeing many rivals struggle.
The Apartment Group says it has grown its business in recent years because, compared with those in many regions, North Easterners are still intent on going out and having a good time, regardless of the economic downturn.
In 2004 the Newcastle company’s turnover was £3m with a profit of £250,000. But the latest figures available for the business reveal a turnover of £11m with a profit of £3m.
And this year the business has been further growing its portfolio with the help of a £8.65m loan from the Co-operative Bank.
In the last 12 months the recent buying spree has resulted in the purchase of three venues, one of Newcastle’s oldest pubs, the Cooperage on the Quayside, the former Old Orleans restaurant in Sunderland and the Joiners Arms in picturesque Newton-by-the-Sea in north Northumberland.
The deal, which completed earlier this month, will see funds repaid to Allied Irish Bank (AIB), as the company presses ahead with the multi-million pound redevelopment of the Grade II listed Newton Hall, which is also in Newton-by-the-Sea, into a luxury wedding venue.
Mark Gubbins, finance director at Apartment Group said: “ We are always on the look out suitable properties. We are also in a good position to move quickly if we are told there is something on the market.”
Gubbins put the success of existing bars and restaurants in Newcastle – such as Florita’s, Madame Koo and As You Like It – by keeping one step ahead of the competition.
“We act when venues need to be refreshed and we always want to reinvent places to offer the best service,” he said. “Apartment has come a long way since 2003 and we are looking forward to lifting the curtain on both Newton Hall and the new As you Like it in Sunderland in the next few months.” Newton Hall will not open until March 2012 but already there have been a “ significant number of wedding bookings” and it is now regarded as the “ jewel in the crown” of the Apartment Group, he said.
Gubbins added: “This is a clear demonstration of the region’s appetite for a new wedding venue.”
Kevin Anderson, senior manager at the Co-op Newcastle corporate banking centre said: “The company has a very unique business model and has continued to perform well despite the recession, and we look forward to seeing more of the same in the future.”
The bank said that, despite some of the toughest economic trading conditions in history, the Co-op has managed to increase lending across the business sector by 40% since 2007.