Nabarros scoops canal pub deal for British Waterways

Nabarro Nathanson has fought off competition from other panel firms to advise on British Waterways’ new pub partnership venture.

The firm put its win down to a combination of knowledge of both the property and the pub sectors. “Apart from the property aspects, they were interested in ensuring they had advisers who knew how the licensing world worked,” said Nabarros partner Martin Grabiner, who is leading on the deal.

Other firms that work for the body include Burges Salmon, Denton Wilde Sapte, Norton Rose, Pinsents and Wragge & Co, as well as Ashurst Morris Crisp and Herbert Smith for larger projects.

The venture will see British Waterways, the state-owned organisation responsible for maintaining the UK’s 200-year-old canal system, seek out a private sector partner to help develop a nationwide chain of waterside pubs.

The organisation has earmarked more than 50 sites, which include lock cottages and canalside warehouses, which it plans to develop over the course of the next year. It will also transfer some existing pubs into the new partnership.

Grabiner said the deal represented a “sea change” in the thinking at British Waterways. “There’s a shift from the view that it [British Waterways] is a public organisation to thinking, ‘how can we turn this into a real business?’,” said Grabiner. This venture will generate a new source of revenue which British Waterways can then use for further regeneration of its 2,000-mile network.

The organisation hopes to invest £100m annually over the next 10 years on the redevelopment of its network. Nabarros alone has advised on deals worth more than £500m in the last two years.