Historic Welsh beer brand Brains to sell pubs after Covid restrictions put them under financial pressure

Brains sign on a bridge in Cardiff. Picture by Elliott Brown (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Over 156 S.A Brains pubs in Wales will be sold to pub group Marston’s.

SA Brain & Co was established in 1882 in Cardiff, and became Wales’s biggest brewer and pubs company while remaining under family ownership. It is Wales’ largest domestic pub chain and runs a beer brand of the same name.

The company said Covid restrictions in Wales had put Brains under significant financial pressure, so it had entered collaborative discussions to preserve the brand and secure jobs.

Welsh hospitality was ordered to close on 19 December, but 100 of Brains’ managed pubs have been closed since 4 December when a ban on serving alcohol across Wales came into force.

Brains’ chairman John Rhys said the decision would allow the company to continue “for generations to come” and could safeguard 1,300 jobs.

“We know and trust Marston’s to be excellent custodians of our pubs and, while this is not a decision we have taken lightly, we are confident that our pubs and our pubs teams will thrive under their stewardship,” he said.

“Furthermore, this transaction enables Brains to recapitalise its balance sheet and continue its long heritage as an independent entity, preserving this great Welsh business for generations to come.”

 

‘High-quality’

Marston’s will operate the Brains pubs on a combination of leased and management contract arrangements. They will continue to trade under the Brains brand to serve its beer. The deal will add to the existing 106 Marston’s pubs in Wales.

Ralph Findlay, chief executive of Marston’s, said: “This transaction is entirely consistent with Marston’s long-term strategy as a focused pub operator and strengthens our representation in south and west Wales, while protecting the heritage and independence of an iconic Welsh business.

“These high-quality pubs are a great fit with our existing estate and will benefit from Marston’s scale and operational expertise to further unlock their excellent long-term potential.

“We look forward to the pub teams joining us and to welcoming guests and the communities which they serve back into these pubs as the country emerges from the pandemic over the weeks and months ahead.”

The deal is expected to complete in February 2021.

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