Getting a Fair Deal for Your Local

Time for PubCo reformThe pub industry of Britain has been taking quite a beating over the last few years with a number of factors exerting pressure in the sector, hence the launch today of a campaign called Fair Deal for Your Local.

The demise of the British boozer has been blamed on a number of things; The smoking ban has been one potential reason but there’s more to it than that…

There has also been an economic downturn including two recessions since 2008 with the financial fallout hitting British consumers hard. Whilst interest rates have been historically low, inflation has remained high and wage growth has fallen behind, so people have had less real money to spend.

The supermarkets have been quick to capitalise on this with the use of “loss leading” offers, selling bargain booze to shoppers, meaning that it is more economically viable to stay at home and open a bottle of wine or have a few cans or bottles of beer instead.

Add to that the dreaded “beer duty escalator”. The price of a pint of beer increased at a level way beyond that of the rate of inflation and that was only stopped recently after a 100,000+ signature petition was handed in to Downing Street.

The PubCos

And what about Britain’s Pub Companies or PubCos? They have accumulated vast portfolios of pubs over the past decade, buying them up and often selling them off, making sure that they never open as pubs again or even having the buildings themselves completely demolished.

On this point alone I can say that we’ve lost The George and The Queens Head in Farnborough, both bulldozed to make way for tightly-packed new housing projects. The Fir Tree is now a builders’ yard. The Standard, The Lamb, The Duke of York, The William IV in Camberley have all now gone, along with the Queens Head being a Tesco Express, The Crown being turned into a Nepalese restaurant and The Dolphin, now a Caribbean diner.

So what of the remaining pubs in the PubCos’ portfolios? Most of these are “tied” pubs meaning that the tenants must buy their beer from their landlords. The PubCos also set the rents and have been accused of not charging a fair market rate. Just look at The Robin Hood, Guildford, which was a very successful pub until its owners increased the rent to such an extent that the landlord had no option but to leave. This is where the Fair Deal for Your Local campaign comes in.

Fair Deal For Your Local

The PubCos have been allowed to self-regulate for a number of years now, but that has obviously not worked. With unfair rents and expensive beer it takes an incredible amount of effort to make money and being a pub landlord has never been an easy job.

What Fair Deal for Your Local wants to do is make fairness a statutory requirement. PubCos will be forced to charge only fair rates, maybe even offer a “free-of-tie” option or, if not, at least ensure that the tenant landlords get a good deal on beer if the rent is high or vice versa.

If you’re in the pub business, if you’re a supplier to your local pub, if you conduct business at your local tavern, take your clients out for a social drink, or if you simply want these small businesses to have a fair crack at the whip, then it’s well worth supporting the campaign.

You can sign up as a supporter, complete the Government’s survey for pubco reform or even send in your own letter of support.

Whatever you do, the pub is a historic cornerstone of British culture and every landlord is a small business owner just trying to eke out a living, so getting a fair deal for your local is a must.


By is4profit editor Paul Mackenzie Ross

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