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Buying a pub

What to consider when buying a pub?

Pubs come in many shapes and sizes with just as many types of owners.  The first thing, we believe, you should do is to have a look around at the pubs available to see what is out there in your price range and in the areas you like or are familiar with. 

Buying a pub is a large outlay of money and can have all sorts of risks, particularly if it is tied in with it being the first time you have run a pub.  If looking to run a pub of a particularly larger size perhaps with a food driven business or accommodation it can be a very busy pub too.

Make sure the pub you buy feels right to you

We have carried out structural surveys over several decades and the most important elements of buying or leasing a pub is to make sure that the pub feels right to you.  It can be a combination of factors from the actual pub itself, the era it is from be it a Tudor thatched building or a modern inner city town pub, slipper pub/suburban pub (with the community in walking distance often on the outskirts of towns and frequently the life and soul of the village), the country/destination pub or gastropub/food lead pub.  The pub has to be the right one for you and also has to have the following:-

1. Front of House

The pub has to have a good Front of House area that accommodates customers.

We could talk forever and a day about the layouts of pubs but the best recommendation is to go and work in the pub. 

Another best recommendation is talk to the locals and get to know them to ascertain what sort of customers you will have.

2. Outside area

The pub should have a good outside area and the potential to extend into that outside area with at the very least a modern day tent/marquee dependent upon the size of your pub for functions, events and peak periods such as Bank holidays.

3.  Back of House

The Back of House area is the hidden part of the pub that customers do not see and needs to operate to a good level to get the quality product that you want.

For example: Too smaller cellar or a damp cellar produces bad products and cannot only be bad for business and you and your reputation and thereby the pubs reputation but also Environmental Health can shut you down if they believe you are selling inferior/dangerous product.

4.  Kitchen

If you are lucky enough to have a specific catering kitchen you will need to make sure that the layout is great and everything is easily accessible. 

We could write a whole article on kitchen design in a commercial kitchen but in summary we would recommend that you work in the kitchen or have your chef work in the kitchen before you purchase the pub whereby you can ascertain whether the design is working or not.

5.  Private Living Accommodation

Private Living Accommodation comes in all shapes and sizes whether it is for you or a manager it needs to be pleasant enough to be a retreat and relaxation area. 

We always recommend that you have your own kitchen, even if it is a kitchenette, so that you are able to cook away from the catering kitchen.

We also recommend that you have your own bathroom/shower room. 

This however can be very difficult is some older pub properties particularly Tudor properties where the head height means ducking and diving and space can be limited.

You need to choose the right pub for you and for you to be happy and enjoy the character of an older pub.  Straight lines and readiness of a modern pub that has built-in mod cons will suit others who require this type of pub property.

6.  Take a close look at the pub building or have someone else look at the pub.

We tend to find that most people can look at a pub from a business point of view, as it is what they are used to or are considering.  However people can walk right past items that will cost them money in years to come which at the end of the day comes off the bottom line.  This can range from anything from a thatched roof in poor condition, drains on a catering property that do not have grease traps, woodworm in the roof, electrics that do not work well enough, the list is almost endless. 

Have a look at one of our example surveys of a pub to see what you may have missed. 


Example Pub Surveys


Of course having a building survey on your pub not only highlights the problems and allows you to buy the property with your eyes wide open to the costs it also allows you to negotiate to purchase the pub at a good price.  At the end of the day when you buy the property it is you that has to sort out the problems.

7.  Are you the right person to run a pub?  Is this the right pub for you?

 Over the years many people have the dream of running a pub, those of you who are in the trade already know it is not as easy as it sounds.  Those of you with rose tinted spectacles with regard to running a pub will need to well and truly take them off and go and visit a pub, work behind the bar, work in the kitchen to get first hand experience.  Remembering that at the end of the day you still have the ordering to do, books to keep, organise staff to come in the next day, check the beer has arrived, check the food has arrived etc, etc. 

We have heard that running a pub is very much like plate spinning, where you have to keep all the plates moving as well as juggling many balls with people throwing you extra balls now and again!

8.  Go on courses

The British Institute of Innkeepers amongst others run courses.

Before you get into the depths of running a pub we recommend going on courses, we have personally attended British Institute of Innkeepers courses and found these very informative.  Most of the big breweries and leasing companies such as Enterprise Inns, Greene King, Charles Wells, Admiral Taverns, Punch Taverns, J D Wetherspoons, Ram Pub Company etc run courses too.


We have written articles on the various leasing companies that may well be of interest to you if you are leasing or buying as most of the pubs that come onto the market tend to come from the main leasing companies.


Enterprise Inns


Why use our Pub Building Surveyors to save you money?

It is hard enough as it is running a pub, as those of you who have a pub will know, and the last situation you want is unexpected bills for a leaking roof, electrics failing etc which is on top of over-paying for the pub as well.  Our Independent Pub Building Surveyors can give you advice on all these types of property problems so call us on free phone 0800 298 5424


Take a look at some of our articles about pubs

Public Houses we have surveyed

Schedule of Condition on a Public House Review

Review of a Survey of a Large Pub needing Major Repairs

Interim Dilapidations on a Pub Lease 


A to Z of pub terms

  A    Ale - Traditional beer fermented with warm yeast
  B   Brewery – establishment that brews beers and other malt liquors
  C   Community – often the heart of a village and a hub of the community
  D   Duty – tax, whichever increases on the price of alcohol
  E   Entertainment – whether a live band or the local darts club a pub is a great local venue

Fixture and Fittings –

Our building surveys and Schedules of Conditions will identify any fixtures and fittings that are your responsibility or the breweries/landlords.

  G   Gastropub – pub that serves high quality beer and food
  H   Houses – many pubs are being lost and redeveloped into housing
  I   Inns – original a coach house for a weary traveller
  J   Jobs – one of the biggest employers in the UK
  K   Keg – a container for pasteurised and filtered beer.
  L   Lease – Always read your lease in full and ensure you are fully aware of its terms
  M   Michelin stars – pubs that have restaurants have become popular with gastropubs rated by Michelin for their outstanding meals.
  N   Nightlife – from pub bands to locals meeting up for dominos and quiz nights a pub can be a local centre for many to meet.
  O   Optics – ensuring the measure of alcohol is accurate.
  P   Publican – knowledgeable on local beers and local activities the publican’s role is always to make customers feel welcome.
  Q   Queues – always a sign of a popular bar.
  R   Resolutions and Representation – there are several trade bodies that help publicans.
  S   Smoking – no smoking in pubs making them cleaner and more family friendly
  T   Tied house – publicans having to buy certain beers as set by the brewery.
  U   Ulage – the space at the top of a bottle of wine or cask of ale that is unfilled.
  V   VAT – charge by government added to price of alcohol
  W   Welcome – from the minute you walk into a pub the welcome you receive from the bar staff is significant to your patronage.
  X   Xmas – the time of year most pubs are most successful with prices for a Christmas lunch the highest of the year.
  Y   Youth – 18 is the age that young people are allowed to drink alcohol.
  Z   Zzzzz – pubs often have accommodation for the weary traveller.


Different types of pub ownership such as managed pubs owned and run traditionally by brewing companies

Following the 1990 Mergers and Monopolies Commission many breweries then became property pub running companies with pubs that tend to be run by people on a fixed salary with a good bonus.  This is a very good way to learn the pub trade dependent upon the Managed House Scheme there may be commission in relation to weekly turnover which we would expect to be £10,000 plus.  This could very well be supported by the operating Brewery or Pub Property Company.

Pub Tenancy

This is how traditionally most pubs were run being tied to a relatively short agreement tied into buying the Brewery companies’ beers or in the case of pub property leasing companies the beers that they are tied to buy.  In some cases this can also be, with regard to wines and spirits and AWP’s (Amusement with Prizes) such as one-armed bandits, pool tables etc. 

Typically these pubs had turnovers of less than £10,000 and some were built up to larger turnovers.  This type of tenancy has little cash that passes hands to gain the tenancy unless it is a very good tenancy.  With this you are effectively your own boss but you do not get to be able to sell on any improvements to the business that you make.

Pub Leases

Really Pub Leases have developed since the 1990 Mergers and Monopolies Commission with some of the big operators such as Whitbread reducing their stock of properties in the market and moving onto develop Costa Coffee, David Lloyd Centres and restaurant concepts like T.G.I. Friday’s etc which left some smaller local brewers and also developed Pub Leasing companies such as

Local Brewers

Greene King

Charles Wells Pub Co

St Austell Brewery

Wadworth & Co

Hydes Brewery




Elgood & Sons

Frederic Robinson


Pub Leasing Companies

Enterprise Inns

Punch Taverns

Trust Inns


Wellington Pub Company

Marston’s Plc

Brakspear Pub Company

Young & Co


The benefits of having a lease is that any trade that you develop you can sell on when you come to sell the lease.  The disadvantage is, of course, that you have to buy the lease and an even bigger disadvantage is that you may get a Schedule of Dilapidations served upon you.


A brief history of Schedule of Dilapidations in the Pub trade industry

The Pub trade industry comes very much from a lax background with regard to property.  Breweries very much saw their pubs as an inconvenience they had to have to sell beer from which all changed from the 1990s when pubs started to look at their properties very much like the rest of the property industry and wanted to receive income from them.  Income in the form of rents as rents are far safer than the fluctuation of beer sales for example in a good hot summer you can have very good beer sales and in a rainy summer you can have poor beer sales whereas rents stay the same for three to five years or moving gradually upwards or quickly upwards dependent upon how the market is going.  Most pub rents are having upwards only rental clauses so that the rents cannot decrease even if the property market, rental market, beer market, food market go down the rental price holds.  More than this the lease allows the property owners to serve a Dilapidations claim at the end of the lease to bring the property back into the condition that is stated within the lease.  This is not the condition the property was taken on with but the as it states within the lease which can be very different.

When leases were first introduced we found that breweries in particular were very lax with regard to Dilapidations.  Whereas the pub property companies coming from a different position tended to have a different attitude.  This serving of Dilapidations and the enforcement of Dilapidations have developed over the years to the point now where it is very similar to commercial property such as offices, warehouses and shops.  However, the major difference is usually you are leasing a much older property and always leasing a property that has been poorly maintained, as the breweries are not known for maintaining their properties.  You can have, what we term as, initially in good condition painted to lease but when you look closely the rotten windows have been painted over and other such factors.


Freehold Pubs

Freehold Pubs can be a term that is quite confusing a Brewery Freehold or Free House does mean that there is no tie to anyone’s beers.  Interestingly we have been involved in freehold properties in the past although not tied to beer companies have taken loans from beer companies at favourable rates.  As Chartered Surveyors freehold means that the property is owned completely similarly to how most people buy houses and it is not that common in commercial properties as most buildings are worth a considerable amount and are held by property companies and leased out. 

Where a pub is freehold we have seen over the years that it can considerably increase in value and equally we have seen many pubs close over the years where they have got more valuable alternative uses which is what the free market does particularly common are freehold pubs being changed into accommodation. 

If you are thinking of doing this or having another use for the pub again call us on free phone 0800 298 5424 as we may have surveyed the pub in the past and be able to give you information in detail in relation to this. 

We have a list of some of the pubs that we have surveyed over the years on this website. 

Example Pub Surveys

Extending or Developing a Pub

Equally if you intend to extend or develop the pub be it a Managed House Tenancy Lease or Freehold house we can also advise on this.  We also offer a Plan Development Service, which is where we look at how best it is to develop a property.


Pub Freehold turnover

Pub freehold turnover tends to be less than £10,000 per week and investments are anything from £100,000 to many millions.