On the eve of its debut on the ASX and uncoupling from Woolworths, ALH is looking to let loose the cheque book to secure further acquisitions and market share in accommodation.

Billionaire major shareholder Bruce Mathieson has said “people will be surprised” by the kind of properties ALH is looking to buy in its aggressive hunt for pubs, now it and parent company Endeavour Drinks are no longer constrained by the considerations of the supermarket giant, which just announced confirmation of the spin-off of the liquor and hotels division. 

Mathieson says Endeavour will now readily join the buying spree being seen by major players such as Hemmes, Laundy and AVC.

Australian Leisure & Hospitality (ALH) currently owns and operates over 330 licensed venues around the country and employs over 15,000 people, and the veteran hotelier believes the industry isn’t going away anytime soon.

“People want to go to pubs. It is a great industry and still full of potential,” he told Newscorp.

“It is my life and I have no other investment that I want to put my money into. I am more than a believer in this industry.”

While often criticised as the largest pub operator of pokies in Australia, ALH has also been expanding its Nightcap Hotels accommodation brand, offering “everything you need and nothing you don’t”.

The brand is now being further expanded with Nightcap Social, launched in conjunction with the opening of a new 17-room accommodation offering at the Ramsgate Hotel, built 1897, at Henley Beach in South Australia.

Henley is one of Adelaide’s most popular beachside destinations, just 10 kilometres from the CBD, but despite all its tourist trappings, it lacked hotel accommodation.

Nightcap Social aims to incorporate what guests love about accommodation experiences, blending value, comfort and design with social settings, in beach and getaway locations.

All rooms feature an Australian-made King Koil bed, free bottled water, fast, free and unlimited WiFi, and either an en-suite or shared bathroom facilities – all newly fitted with rain showers. Guests check in through a smartphone invitation, and can head down to the pub for a complimentary drink. 

Nightcap Hotels launched in 2018, providing affordable, contemporary accommodation, designed with a mix of colour, neutrals and cool furnishings.

It currently has a total of 105 accommodation sites in operation. Sixty-five are renovated and branded under Nightcap Hotels, while another 40 are operating but un-branded, needing to be renovated to standard. These are expected to come online over the next five years.

The accommodation division has the option of an additional 10-15 ALH pub sites that are currently closed but could be re-opened. Next off the rank in this category will be the Royal Hotel Essendon.

They also have their eye on several pub carparks that could be developed as accommodation. The first of these is already underway, putting 61 rooms adjacent to the existing Sands Hotel, in Carrum, Victoria. The new accommodation wing is slated for opening in November this year.

Nightcap Social is looking to do one location per state, scheduled for the Gold Coast, Sydney, Melbourne, Launceston and Busselton, WA.

“Properties in this Nightcap Hotels category complement their relaxed and leisure-based surrounds, however the rooms and facilities will, like all our hotels, maintain and deliver our high standards, exceptional value and brand promise to our guests,” explains Brett Salter, ALH national accommodation manager.

Endeavour Drinks begins trading on the ASX Thursday. Tipped to be one of the biggest floats of 2021, it may find valuation of around $15bn, immediately making it a top 50 company on the Australian Stock Exchange.

Salter echoed Mathieson’s prophecy of future acquisitions “in the pipeline”. 

“The time-frame will be clearer with the new business structure,” he says.

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