Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) has secured its first free-of-tie lease from Enterprise Inns on a site in the North East, which it intends to open under its community, food-led Sizzling Pubs format. The managed pub operator has taken the lease on Owton Lodge in Stockton Road, Hartlepool, after what is thought to be several months of negotiations. It is thought that the move could lead to the operator of Toby Carvery and Harvester looking at further free-of-tie opportunities going forward. It continues to seek a balance of freehold and leasehold properties. M&B announced at the start of 2010 plans to double the size of its key brands, including Sizzling. It currently operates c.200 sites under the format. Property advisor Christie + Co acted on behalf of M&B on the Owton Lodge deal.