ALH FORCED TO RESUME AND REOPEN THE ARCHER

In Changing Times by Clyde Mooney

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Three years after on-selling the leasehold interest, Australia’s biggest pub group ALH has resumed control and re-opened The Archer in North Adelaide.

Australian Leisure & Hospitality (ALH) sold the business to Bloody Mary Group’s Huntsman Hotel P/L in 2016. The new owners initially spoke of a $2 million overhaul of the heritage-listed building.

But plans were shelved, and last October the entity fell into administration, hosting a ‘Drink Us Dry’ closing party in November before leaving the pub dormant and the ATO, employees and creditors owed hundreds of thousands.

The Woolworths-backed ALH’s original lease on the property reflected most of the leases on its hundreds of operations around the country, in that on-sale of the operation keeps it on the hook for costs and rent should the third party fall over.

This rent guarantee has seen the group liable since Huntsman P/L closed the doors.

Such clauses will prove major barrier to any potential arrangement for Woolworths to free itself from its majority share in ALH, although there has been no shortage of speculation that such a move was on the horizon – particularly since Coles’ JV with AVC cleared regulatory hurdles last month.

ALH operates more than 330 pubs around the country, including 30 in South Australia.

Amid “looming” rent revisions in the South Australian capital, ALH has executed internal works at the historic Archer, and revamped its beer garden, adding seating and a big-screen TV.

A dozen staff have been employed to oversee the first weeks, hosting “come and look” days starting today and continuing over the weekend. Next weekend will see a major launch, ushering in fresh entertainment, drinks specials and DJs.

The pub has tended toward the higher end in price point, and decision was made to reposition it into ‘great value’ on f&b for a broader market.

ALH Group SA operations manager Darren Nathan reports “significant investment” in the revised Archer, and hopes for growth as business develops, with plans for further capex later in the year.