Pub and restaurant group Greene King yesterday blamed recently tightened drink-driving laws in Scotland for flat sales.
The company, whose brands include Old Speckled Hen and Abbot Ale, plus the Hungry Horse and Loch Fyne chains, reported just a 0.4 per cent increase in sales for the 51 weeks to 26 April, but said sales were up 0.8 per cent, stripping out the effect of the rule change. Scotland lowered the legal drink-drive limit on 5 December from 80mg to 50mg of alcohol in every 100ml of blood, making it lower than anywhere else in the UK.
It said that one of its strongest brands was Metropolitan – its premium pubs in the capital – which strongly outperformed the London market.
Chief executive officer Rooney Anand said: “We once again traded well over key events, such as Valentine’s Day and Easter, as customers celebrated and enjoyed these occasions in our pubs. The second half of this financial year, however, has been tougher than the first half, with more difficult comparatives to last year and the additional impact of new drink-driving legislation in Scotland.”
“Looking ahead, we are moving closer to the acquisition of Spirit and, in particular, to next week’s decision by the Competition and Markets Authority. The acquisition of Spirit will create the UK’s leading managed pub operator, accelerate our retail expansion strategy and deliver significant synergy opportunities and scale benefits for both sets of shareholders.”