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Bath Leisure Property Focus


Click to here download the full Bath Leisure Property Focus.

Bath, a city with a rich history has been welcoming visitors for over 2,000 years. The famous Roman Spa Baths, once again, became popular in the Georgian period when much of the property that is in evidence today was constructed.

Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site visitors arrive in significant numbers to appreciate not only the architecture and culture the city has to offer but also the vibrant retail and leisure scenes.

The city has a population of 176,000 which includes a resident student population of 16,000. The University of Bath and the Bath Spa University are both located in the city.The high student population adds to the vibrancy of the leisure scene.

Despite the historic nature of the city centre major developments have been completed, there is no better example than the SouthGate Development which was fully opened in August 2010 and now provides 420,000 sq ft of prime retail, restaurant and leisure space. The modern retail space of the SouthGate scheme sits comfortably with the traditional retail areas such as Old Bond Street, Milsom Street and the side streets which run off these. The retail offer in Bath attracts visitors from a wide geographical area and for many is an appealing alternative to the likes of Bristol's Cabot Circus and Cribbs Causeway.




Bath's stunning attractions make it a perfect year round short break destination. In 2012 Bath attracted almost one million staying visitor trips, some 210,000 of these were overseas visitors. The need for a varied stock of accommodation in the city is high.

A visitor accommodation study prepared for BANES Council in 2009 found that there was scope to add 256-376 rooms by 2016 and 441-761 rooms by 2026 which at the time reflected a 25% and 52% increase in the existing hotel stock. There was recognition that the significant requirement for accommodation was at the higher end of the market.

Apex Hotel Development
Apex Hotel Development

Constraints imposed by the need to protect the heritage of the city tends to lead to lengthy consultation and planning periods, as such it is only now that the city is beginning to see a number of projects come to fruition.

Consent has been granted for a number of new hotels.

Apex Hotels has consent for a new 177 bedroom, full service hotel with conference facilities near to the junction of Charles Street and James Street West. Demolition contractors are now on site, completion of the project is expected in Autumn 2016.

Almost opposite Premier Inn opened a new build 108 bedroom hotel in late 2014.

For a number of years the development of a casino, hotel and restaurant unit focused onSawclose has been the subject of discussion. Developers now have the green light and clearance works commenced towards the end of 2014. A 148 bedroom hotel is to be constructed.

At the top end of the market YTL Hotels are close to completing works on the Gainsborough Hotel which is expected to provide 98 custom finished guest rooms and suites with banqueting and spa facilities. The hotel will have direct access to the city's hot springs.

Premier Inn, James St West
Premier Inn, James St West

New hotels in Bath are not just about new developments. During 2014 the closed former Fairfax Hotel was acquired by the Vineyard Group. The aim is to comprehensively refurbish the property with the intention of being open for business by the late summer of 2015 as a high endboutique hotel. The hotel was reportedly acquired off a guide price of £3.25m.

It is not only the city centre that is buoyant, in the more peripheral areas transactional interest remains high for privately owned hotels and B&B operations. The prestigious Royal Crescent Hotel was acquired out of the Von Essen Administration in 2012 by the Topland Group.

The above developments will provide up to 530 new bedrooms in the city centre, this very nearly fulfils the needs identified by the 2009 accommodation report. We doubt this will curb demand, the search will continue to identify new opportunities within the constraints provided by a world heritage site.

The Gainsborough Bath Spa
The Gainsborough Bath Spa


Pubs & Bars

City centres usually provide a number of 'circuits' each offering a variety of operations. In many ways Bath is unique in that the size and constraints of the city centre makes for ready access across the whole. From the railway station in the south and George Street in the north there is little more than a 10 minute walk. The city centre is effectively one large circuit.

Relative to other city centres Bath does not have the same proliferation of high volume branded outlets, units tend to be smaller and of a more traditional and unique nature.

The Salamander
The Salamander

Subject to being able to satisfy their site criteria Bath is a location that many operators are keen to enter. In recent years the city has seen a number of outstanding developments not least the Hall & Woodhouse development of the former Bonhams auction rooms on Wood Street. Operators have been prepared to invest heavily in the city in order to gain representation, Fuller Smith & Turner acquired three properties in 2012 and undertook a sympathetic refurbishment of each. Following the acquisition of a 51% stake in Stable Fullers are now seeking to secure a better located and configured site. Fleurets are advising on a potential acquisition and the disposal of the existing unit on George Street.

Experienced public house operators, Clive Watson and David Bruce, through the City Pub Company have similarly invested significantly in the city through the acquisition and refurbishment of the Cork and the Bath Brew House, site of the former Metropolitan PH on James Street West.

Crystal Palace
Crystal Palace

Another exciting opening in late 2013 was the Bath Ales Graze unit next to the railway station. The unit has become extremely popular, Bath Ales report trade as being beyond their expectations.

One of the attractions of the Bath pub and bar scene is the range and styles of operation together with the mix of operators/owners that is available. Examples include the Canary Gin & Wine Bar which not only provides a unique retail offer but also produces Bath Gin. In addition Be At One cocktail bar has opened within the Vaults scheme.

Milsom PlaceMilsom Place


The restaurant scene is vibrant, an extensive range of styles of food and restaurant types are available. As one would expect with an affluent resident population and high visitor numbers many of the branded operators are represented with a number having more than one trading unit.

The continued demand for restaurant units appears unrestricted. Historically the restaurants have been situated within period properties, however the availability of units in new developments appears to have fuelled demand.

In recent times shell units have become available at the Vaults, in the SouthGate Development, at Millsom Place and there have also been a number of pre-lets in the casino and hotel scheme on Sawclose. These units tend to meet the size requirements of the branded operators.

Large units are relatively scarce and those that do exist tend to be within converted buildings, Browns and Garfunkel's being examples.


Restaurants have had to adapt to the space available, in this respect Jamie Oliver's is a good example, the business unit is arranged over three levels.

Smaller, privately operated restaurants tend to be located in more peripheral city centrelocations with Broad Street and Barton Street being examples. Fleurets experienced good levels of demand for the Koh Thai and La Tasca units which were let in Broad Street and Grand Parade in recent times.

Hotels and arches have provided popular restaurant locations with Brasserie Blanc having opened within the Francis Hotel on Queen Square, the reputation of the Allium Brasserie in the Abbey Hotel becoming enhanced and more peripheral there is the restaurant in the Bath Priory Hotel which has earned a Michelin Star.

The unique Italian Restaurant Sotto Sotto in the arches beneath North Parade is ranked first of over 460 restaurants in Bath and the surrounding area by TripAdvisor. The restaurant has a visitor rating of 5 after 3,557 reviews!

In recent years there has been much discussion in Bath with regard to the development of the Colonnades scheme beneath Grand Parade, which has the ability to provide two restaurant units. Fleurets have been assisting BANES with their proposals in more recent times, licensing having been obtained during 2014. In February 2015 planning permission for the scheme was refused and matters are now being revisited.

Demand for restaurants in Bath remains strong, indeed it has recently been reported Cau, Bistro Pierre and Lobster & Burger have recently acquired units. Fleurets have also been active in advising operators and have acted for Mitchells & Butler with regard to their acquisition of Miller & Carter on Milsom Street, the former Litten Tree. We have also recently acted on behalf of Fuller Smith & Turner with regard to the acquisition of a new Stable outlet within the city centre.


Leisure & Night Clubs

The club scene in Bath is dominated by independently operated businesses, many of which are located in the various arches throughout the city. The clubs are generally small, the largest most probably being ClubXL on Walcot Street. For those wanting the 'bigger' club scene, a trip to Bristol is likely to be required.

Komedia offers a live entertainment venue, this Grade II Art Deco listed building dating from the 1920s was the first cinema in the west, but sadly was left to fall into disrepair. In 2008 the property was let by BANES following which the property has been restored at the significant joint expense of both the landlord and the tenant. The venue is used for a variety of events, ranging from stand up comedians to burlesque cabaret. The proximity of Komedia to the Theatre Royal and the proposed casino creates a leisure hub in the heart of the city.

The Theatre Royal, in all its grandeur fronting Sawclose, offers a varied programme of drama, musicals, opera and concerts.

A short distance away, the modern Kingsmead Square leisure development provides the city's only modern cinema. The cinema offer is complemented by the independent Little Theatre Cinema.

The proposed casino on Sawclose will add to Bath's leisure scene and is likely to prove a further attraction for visitors.

A degree of uncertainty remains over Bath Rugby Club's proposal to redevelop The Rec ground on the edge of the city centre. The Premier League club are keen to improve the facilities and to provide a world class stadium. In all probability any improvements will now have to be squeezed into the existing footprint. The existence of the ground, so close to the city centre, brings considerable trade to the bars and restaurants on match days and creates a carnival like atmosphere.

And finally it has recently been announced Parade Gardens and the Colonnades have been added to a list of places in Bath where wedding ceremonies can be held. A great opportunity for local restaurants and hotels!