This week’s Diary includes alcohol and M-roads, Superdry chiefs in the pub trade, Luminar’s Easter success, and ‘elf ‘n’ safety gone mad.

Motorway showdown
News this morning that Mitchells & Butlers is to open a Harvester at a motorway service station, in conjunction with Moto, has opened up the issue of whether the demon drink can be sold from the nation’s M-roads. Diary has learnt that said Harvester at Donington Park Services on the M1 will not be selling alcohol and the common perception is that getting licensed on a motorway services is simply not possible. But JD Wetherspoon is set to challenge this view with plans to open a pub at the Extra services on the M40 at Beaconsfield. The law says premises located on motorways, unlike other roads, can’t acquire a licence. However, Wetherspoons CEO John Hutson has said there’s some ambiguity for services that are not directly situated at the side of an M-road. Of JDW’s proposal, a source at Moto said simply: “Good luck!” Diary will watch with interest.

Super group
Diary has always had a soft spot for the Superdry clothing range (if only he could still fit in most of the items it owns under the label!). On the flip side, it seems that leading players in the Superdry story have fondness for the pub sector, with the chain’s former chief executive and co-founder Julian Dunkerton and other co-founder James Holder both backing up-and-coming groups. Dunkerton backs the three-strong Lucky Onion chain in the South West, while Holder is understood to have joined the board of Cirrus Inns, the fast-growing investment vehicle, which recently secured the Punchbowl in London’s Mayfair from Guy Ritchie.

Diner time
Diary has been giving some thought to the current name of Jamie Oliver’s upcoming new project in London Piccadilly, the Dog House & Diner. For a mooted hotdog and ribs joint we think it’s ok, but wonder if it is a working title. For something positioned in central London and in one of the key tourist spots in the capital, maybe something flagging up Oliver’s participation could be a better bet, say Jamie’s Diner. Just a thought.

Cracking Easter
After the generally dreadful start to trading in 2013, fuelled by the stubborn refusal of winter to pack its bags, operators were hoping to see some respite over Easter. One company that did see an uplift is Luminar, the 56-strong nightclub firm, which this morning reported a 14% rise in sales over the Easter weekend. Finance director Russell Margerrison said: “These results are extremely encouraging as we continue the positive momentum seen in the second half of last year. Easter fell well coinciding with pay day and thankfully the weather was also in our favour. A 14% improvement in like for like sales shows that our clubs are our customers’ venue of choice on big occasions and, despite negative perceptions, there is still real upside in the nightclub sector.” Marks said Luminar’s next investment will start in Romford next month. Here’s to a good summer.

Myths and mishaps
The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has long been cast as the ‘business prevention department’ by companies frustrated by the reams of rules and regulations it spews out each year. But the HSE claims that it’s not always to blame for disproportionate health and safety-related advice, and it has come out fighting with its first annual Myth Busters report to challenge people’s misconceptions about its work. For the past year it has been compiling a list of dodgy decisions that have been taken by businesses in the name of health and safety, but which have no justification. These include the following bar and restaurant over-reactions: A Chinese restaurant refusing to give customers finger bowls because of health and safety; refusing to serve pint glasses with handles because of health and safety; a nightclub refusing to hand out screw caps with bottled water purchased from bar, citing health and safety; a waiter refusing to provide a doggy bag for a customer on health and safety grounds; and cafes and restaurants refusing to allow mothers to heat baby food “for health and safety reasons”.

Play time
Regular readers will know of Diary’s fondness for unusual job titles, and a new one hit his in-box today. Spirit is looking for a “director of play” for its Wacky Warehouse brand, and is targeting a youthful appointment. “The chain is seeking a playful boy or girl, up to the age of 12 years old, to take on the most-fun role it has ever created,” Spirit said. “The ideal candidate must love to play and be willing to try out every element of the soft play centre, which includes giant ball pits, cargo nets, astro slides and aerial runs. The chosen ‘director of play’ may also be called upon to provide a consultation service on all children’s activities taking place over the next year.” Perfect for keeping anyone’s little darling occupied when they’re not at school, Diary thinks.

C&B to SSP
Former Corney & Barrow Bars MD Lucy Knowles has received a glowing endorsement from her new boss, Mark Angela, chief executive of SSP UK & Ireland, where she will join on 20 May as chief marketing officer. “Lucy started her career at Corney & Barrow as a general manager of one of their flagship bars when they poached her from a competitor after realising how much business they were losing to her!” Angela said. “She very quickly worked her way up through the business in operational roles before becoming managing director in 2003. During her career she has driven many functional initiatives including developing an inspirational leadership programme as well as marketing and promotional programmes. She has also been instrumental in growing the Corney & Barrow estate as well as driving a significant increase in food revenue. A significant achievement has been Lucy’s re-branding of the Corney & Barrow business that has resulted in the development of the C&B Bar, the Terrace restaurant concept and the Cabin, allowing Corney & Barrow to successfully enter the travel arena at Waterloo Station.” Diary wishes Lucy well.

Licence to ill?
Ho hum, another study this morning has concluded that changes to licensing laws back in 2005 contributed to the breakdown of society. This time research from the Royal Economic Society concluded that the Licensing Act in England and Wales has led to a rise in absenteeism that did not occur in places where trading hours had not changed. By how much, you may ask, have absentee rates increased since, erm, “24 Hour Drinking” was forced upon the nation? A staggering 1.7%. Let’s just declare ourselves bankrupt now, shall we?