Cumbria Crack

Buzz Bingo to close Carlisle club

Buzz Bingo today announces a proposal to restructure its retail estate through the implementation of a company voluntary arrangement (‘CVA’). This follows a period of productive consultation with Buzz Bingo’s various stakeholders, including its landlords, aimed at securing a sustainable long-term future for the business following the outbreak of Covid-19 and resultant lockdown.

Under the proposed terms of the CVA, while the majority of clubs (91) will continue to trade, 26 clubs will close permanently due to what the company expects will be an unsustainable operating environment for the foreseeable future.

Across the rest of the portfolio, Buzz Bingo has been engaged in constructive dialogue with landlords to better align the rents of certain clubs relative to forecast trading. Regrettably, the proposed CVA will potentially impact 573 of Buzz’s c.3400 colleagues across the business, whom Buzz Bingo is committed to supporting at this difficult time.

The challenges facing businesses at this unprecedented time of lockdown due to COVID-19 are well understood. Like many others in the leisure and entertainment sector, Buzz Bingo was forced to close all its clubs across the UK, which have remained closed since Saturday 21 March. It put immediate measures in place: minimising costs where possible, reducing senior management pay and making use of the Government’s furlough scheme for the vast majority of employees.

Despite this, Buzz Bingo’s daily operations and its ability to generate revenues from its retail club portfolio has been severely impacted.

While Buzz Bingo intends to commence the reopening of its clubs from 6 August, it expects that it will take time for footfall to return to pre Covid-19 levels due to social distancing measures and customer confidence to socialise indoors taking time to rebuild, particularly among Buzz Bingo’s customer group.

The management believe the proposed CVA provides the best possible outcome for all of Buzz Bingo’s stakeholders as it looks to secure a sustainable long-term future for the business and its remaining c.2800 employees.

Buzz Bingo’s owner, Caledonia Investments, has indicated its willingness to provide an additional £22m of equity capital (in addition to the £5m that it invested in Buzz Bingo in May, 2020) once the CVA becomes effective. The new equity capital will be augmented with an additional £10m of debt provided by Buzz Bingo’s existing lender.

Chris Matthews, Chief Executive, Buzz Bingo commented: “The ongoing pandemic has had far-reaching consequences for the entire leisure and hospitality sector and an immediate and significant impact on our business.

“Following a thorough review of our options, the proposed CVA will restructure our retail portfolio to ensure we are well positioned for a return to growth, while adapting to the ongoing, challenging environment as we start to reopen the majority of our clubs.

“Our lenders are supporting our plans and our owners, Caledonia will be investing into the new structure to further strengthen our future business.

“The restructure will, very sadly, impact a number of our colleagues and my priority is to support all those affected and keep them fully informed as we continue with this process. I would like to thank every single one of our colleagues for their continued understanding and commitment over this period.”

Melanie Leech, Chief Executive, British Property Federation (BPF) comments: “These situations are never easy, particularly now for the retail, hospitality and leisure businesses on our high streets at the sharp end of the Covid-19 pandemic. Property owners, however, need to take into consideration the impact on their investors, including the millions of people whose savings and pensions are invested in commercial property, as they vote on any CVA proposal.

Buzz Group and AlixPartners engaged with the BPF before launching this CVA proposal. This has provided us an opportunity to improve understanding of property owners’ interests and concerns, but ultimately it will be for individual property owners to decide how they will vote on the CVA.”

Buzz Bingo will seek creditor approval of the CVA Proposal which is due on 3rd August. The online business will continue to trade as usual during this period.

Clubs identified for potential closure (26); Chatham, Salford, Salisbury, Antelope Park, Banbury, Boston, Bournemouth, Bridlington, Carlisle, Chorley, Cramlington, Derby Foresters, Edinburgh Westerhailes, Harpurhey, Hereford, Kilmarnock, Milton Keynes, Oxford Kassam, Stockland Green, Tamworth, Wednesbury, Weymouth, Wigan Robin Park, Wolverhampton, Worcester, Wythenshawe.

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