This week’s exclusive Diary includes Bob Ivell talking Worzel Gummidge; expansion for M&B’s Alex; a grand opening for TLC and growth plans for Kettner’s. Miss calculation Cal Management, the pub operator that bought 44 community sites in northern England out of administration two years ago, and then into administration itself earlier this year, had run up debts of £12.77m with lender Allied Irish Bank. In an update by administrators Zolfo Cooper, a list of creditors for the group, which are out of pocket due to the administration, includes Heineken UK, Green King, Caledonian Breweries and Joseph Holt. Of the 44 pubs, seven are closed, 11 are tenanted and 26 are managed. Currently operated under management by Asset Manager Solutions, there is no intention to bring the sites to the market at this stage. Wise choice. Less of the Worzels M&B’s Harvester brand had a great 18 months according to executive chairman Bob Ivell, with good returns being generated from new openings. Regarded as a “bit of a distressed purchase” a few years back, re-launched under the Harvester Salad & Grill moniker with customers allowed to customise their meal, the brand is now popping up in retail and leisure parks. However Ivell has his own take on the success of the brand. He told Diary: “We moved away from the Worzel Gummidge, to a more modern, trendy take on the brand”. We wonder what Aunt Sally thinks. Wunderbar for Alex Another M&B concept, the Alex café and bar brand in Germany is having something of a renaissance. After being one of the rumoured main targets for disposal by the company for a number of years the chain is now on the expansion trail again. Currently operating close to 50 sites in Germany, M&B hopes to open a further six sites under the brand next year and has even mentioned the possibility of it expanding across Europe. Diary wonders if the All Bar One in Cologne, the group’s only site under a different format outside the UK, will also get the same treatment. Binley doesn’t hold back Brian Binley MP, scourge of the pubcos and Enterprise boss Ted Tuppen in particular, doesn’t mince his words. Last night the outspoken member of the Business, Innovation & Skills Committee, which in September released its damning report calling for change in the pubco/tenant relationship, told a meeting in Parliament that the “biggest battle” will be to keep Business Secretary Vince Cable to his word to enact reform. Binley said: “We had already talked to the previous minister and he had agreed with us that if pubcos hadn’t done the job then a statutory code would be supported. I put that question to Vince Cable, right into his eyes, and said ‘will you’ and he said ‘yes’. I am sorry but I think politicians need to keep their word, quite frankly. And I plan to make sure that Vince Cable keeps his word. Let the word go out from this meeting Vince beware because if you don’t keep your bloody word we will be after you.” Diary hears that the Government’s response is due tomorrow; watch this space. Floating along nicely The recent full-year results from Gondola Group showed that the operator of Pizza Express, Ask, Zizzi and Byron was still growing sales in this tough consumer environment. It also showed that the company had had a record year of openings, with 42 in total. This comprised 23 Pizza Express, nine Zizzi, three Ask and seven Byron. Next year the company hopes to transform a further 25 Ask sites to its Ask Italian format, however it was a line about its Kettner’s site in London’s Soho that got Diary’s attention. Not the one that says it sells 14,000 bottles of champagne a year. But the one that said “a focus this year has been strengthening the management team ready for ambitious growth plans”. A quick call to Gondola HQ finds that growth plans are very much based on growing sales at the existing site rather than more outlets appearing under the popular restaurant and champagne bar name. Grand opening It has certainly been a great start for TLC Inns founder Steve Haslam at his new American Bar-Grill outlet, Grand Central, in Basildon, Essex. Having opened last Thursday (17 November) following a trial the previous night, Haslam told Diary that the new venue had turned over £28,000 in the “part-week” from Wednesday to Sunday, and it has left him optimistic of meeting his target of over £30k for the first whole week of trading. “It has been fabulous,” said Haslam. “The feedback on the food has been great, along with the feedback on the service which is fantastic as we are very much a service-led business. It is incredible how it has gone from being a bottom-draw concept to opening within the space of just six weeks. “We had some ex-Pat Americans in at the weekend who sent us a nice e-mail and that is always good when you are opening an American bar and grill.” Film star eyes Good Life with nightclub venture Celebrity news now, and David Arquette, the actor who was married to Friends star Courtney Cox, is to open his first nightclub. Called the Good Life in Beverly Hilton Hotel, Arquette promised it will be “back to my roots”. Speaking to celebrity title E! Online, he promised singing and dancing, a live band and - umm - puppets. “Not Muppets,” the actor stressed. “They’re gonna be grown-up puppets.” Err, ok.