Wednesday, July 22, 2015

How Do I Make a Complaint About Enterprise Inns' Behaviour?

... And who do I complain to?

Read their Code of Practice...

Follow the guidelines in it. Before you report Enterprise Inns to the relevant authorities (as pointed out above by John Almond, I have no idea who they are, they don't exist because all channels are in the pockets of the pubco's) I imagine it'll be like Heineken and you must first exhaust your complaint via their internal complaint procedure. So you have to make up your own relevant authorities... That is: copy in these people:

Your Local councillors and your MP, Marcus Jones, Minister for Pubs, Brigid Simmonds, CEO BBPA, the Business Innovation and Skills department and Andrew Griffiths, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Beer Group, Greg Mulholland chair of All Party Parliamentary Save the Pub group and the Chair of the Select Committee Pubco's and to David Cameron and George Osborne.

Once you have all their contact details it's simple to keep them in the loop.

At the Top

Start with the fact that you had to search for their Code of Practice and that no employee of Enterprise Inns has ever drawn it to your attention and you only discovered it through researching their website which promotes how fair and open and transparent their relationship with their publican partners always is.

Say your experience is completely unlike anything that's published by Enterprise Inns on their website or promoted through their roadshows and in any pamphlets or marketing material you've seen.

Explain why you're including them at this early stage... Given the history of your relationship with Enterprise Inns you're entirely sceptical of their ability to conduct complaint proceedings according to their own COP as they've failed to meet even the most basic tenets of their promises made to you since signing your contact. You do not trust them in the least. In fact you suspect that your instigating a complaint will trigger an escalation of their historic abuse of your relationship with them...

And so on.

Copy in some journalists as well.

Helen Fospero
Roger Protz
Pete Brown
Others too, business pages of the broadsheets and Kevin Maguire at the Mirror

Problems at t'Coal Face

The Micropub movement and craft ale revolution prove there's burgeoning demand for more good quality beer retail and places to socialise all over the UK.

BUT there are major obstacles to progress of this gestative movement not yet evident in the market: 

1) the substantial outlet for beer wholesale remains foreclosed due to restrictive tie contracts across the UK. There are strict restrictions to the volume of beer that can be dispensed through the limitations of capacity of small independent retailers that are micropubs... They simply cannot keep pace with the underlying market demand
2) and microbreweries are going to suffer as their available market becomes a competitive pressure cooker where there's oversupply.

MRO next year may improve this situation but the pubco's are actively bullying tenants out of substantive long term agreements anticipating in advance they will be going free of tie...  Micropubs cannot take up the latent demand made by the cartel.  Instead people change their habits and find other ways to spend leisure time ... Family friendly managed food and drink destination venues, often owned by... the same Pubco's operating the Tie cartel (Marston's, Greene King, M&B, and Punch and Enterprise are getting into this big time with anodyne carbon copy identikit units where you can't tell who owns them except through knowing the brands each corporate has distribution deals with) ... coffee chains and just plain not going out to socialise because it's so expensive and uninteresting to do so in the majority of our underinvested pubs.

All of this shows need for mass conversion of the national pub estate to free of tie with simultaneous investment in its fabric to completely reinvigorate Britain. The micropub movement and ale revolutions will thrive alongside but it's a tall order.

The Great British Pubco SCAM explained in a piece of pie

The Great British Pubco SCAM explained in a piece of pie:

On a £4 pint at 3.75% profit a tied publican has to sell over 45 pints an hour to make minimum wage.

The reason that thousands of pubs are run down and dilapidated is simply because of this fact. They've been asset stripped over the last quarter century and chronic lack of investment leaves them not fit for purpose, 'proven to be economically unviable' and targeted to be suitable for conversion to alternative use by the pubco freeholders.

Bottom line in the scandal is: There's NO surplus profit left for the tenant to reinvest in 'their' business (the pub owned by pubco bondholders they are tied into through a usurious, onerous contract (lease) which amounts to nothing less (without irony) than legally sanctioned modern bonded labour.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The RVT Royal Vauxhaull Tavern



The RVT Royal Vauxhaull Tavern massively historically important gay venue in London is going to be asset stripped by fly by night white collar cultural criminal private equity developers.

This is an insight to what is happening to pubs ALL OVER THE UK. It's eroding community spirit absolutely everywhere and together as a nation we are letting it happen.

It's a massive, pernicious cultural crime that's taking place around us. We're all affected. Pubs are the last bastion of Britishness, they're the melting pot of society, the place where class and difference don't matter. Where people are equal. Where young and old learn to be together where people genuinely can experience each other as equals, where difference can be celebrated and cherished and tolerance and inclusion learned from. They're precious and they're being killed off for short term profit by rich greedy sociopathic pricks who don't care about society or community or culture unless they can buy it and put it on a mantelpiece to admire for themselves.



From legendary turns to historical relics, police raids to Diana in drag, there’s simply nowhere like the Tavern

To its regulars, the unique charms of the Royal Vauxhall Tavern need no introduction. But for those who’ve never been inside, allow us to present a quick 10-point primer on the south London boozer’s unique contribution to the fields of history, community, art, architecture, social justice, gossip and – oh yes – good old fun.

1. The RVT is needed now more than ever

‘Sure,’ you might think, ‘this sounds a place with a lot of history. But times change. What does it have to offer the future?’ In fact, the Tavern’s unique past is the very thing that makes it so vital to London today, and tomorrow. It’s an institution in the very best sense – a rich network of people, knowledge and experience built up over decades to address the emotional, cultural and recreational needs of thousands of people whose lives remain outside the mainstream in many ways. As well as a place for a pint, a laugh, a dance or a snog, the Tavern is a highly sophisticated machine for generating art, community and wellbeing – things our society needs now more than ever – things that can’t be left to market forces. It simply can’t be replaced.

2. It’s located at ground zero in the history of modern fun

Constructed between 1860 and 1862, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern was the first building on the former site of the Vauxhall pleasure gardens. The world-famous attraction closed in 1859 after two sensational centuries during which it arguably created modern leisure culture. For the first time, mass audiences could afford access to cutting-edge music, art, fashion and food, all in one place: it was where Britain fell in love with cocktails and pop songs, as well as Handel and Hogarth. Royals, shop assistants, drag queens – everyone went, and what happened in the woodland walkways stayed in the woodland walkways…

3. Its metal columns might be the last physical remnants of that bygone era

Those metal columns inside the RVT that sometimes block your view of the stage? There’s reason to believe they’re the last known remnants of the pleasure gardens. The gardens were famed for their column-lined promenades and pavilions, and a bunch of kit – including metal columns – was sold at auction in between the gardens closing and the pub opening on the same site. Given that the owners of the pub designed ornate brickwork frontage and chose a name that evoked the site’s history – by 1859 they were the Royal Gardens, Vauxhall – why wouldn’t they snap up some iconic objects as well?

4. It’s the oldest continually operating LGBTQ space in London, probably the UK

Vauxhall was a well-known early cruising spot, while unconfirmed reports describe drag acts at the Tavern as early as the 1880s. For obvious reasons, detailed records of such activity are scarce but the RVT certainly had a queer clientele by the 1940s, if not earlier, initially alongside drinkers who were straight – or at least straight-acting. By the 1950s, drag was a staple, with performers frequently running along the large curved bar that used to dominate the pub, sometimes sending drinks flying. Of the numerous gay venues operating in London at the time, the RVT is probably the only one still going.

5. It’s a cradle of drag royalty

The RVT’s roster of regular performers reads like a who’s who of post-war British drag history: Jean Fredericks, Rogers & Starr, Mrs Shufflewick, Lee Paris, Adrella, David Dale, Regina Fong, David Hoyle, The DE Experience, Timberlina, Charlie Hides, the LipSinkers, Myra DuBois and many more – including, of course, Lily Savage, aka Paul O’Grady, who held court there every week for eight years and has referred to the pub as both “the Royal Vauxhall Tavern School of Dramatic Art” and “my spiritual home”. The playwright and director Neil Bartlett OBE calls it home to “the most extraordinary and accomplished avant-garde artists that I’ve ever seen”.

6. It’s at the heart of the story of London’s LGBTQ community

Before gay sex was decriminalised in 1967, pubs like the RVT were crucial to creating a sense of community for people often subjected to isolation, persecution or violence. “They almost fill the role of the family home,” as historian Matt Houlbrook has put it. Connections were forged across barriers of class and age between scene veterans and those arriving from education, the armed forces or out of town. Since decriminalisation, the Tavern has consistently been involved with charity and fundraising work, using models of varying butchness from sports days to drag roasts. Many individual events are thriving micro-communities in their own right – Tuesday night’s Bar Wotever, for instance, has been championing trans rights and culture for more than a decade.

7. When the police raided the pub at the height of the AIDS crisis – wearing rubber gloves – the drag queens started a riot

AIDS devastated London’s LGBTQ community: without any known treatment it was pretty much a death sentence, yet mainstream society reacted with indifference or hostility, including a police crackdown on gay venues. The RVT was a key site of support, coordinating fundraising and open discussion and hosting funeral wakes. In January 1984, 35 policemen raided the Tavern wearing rubber gloves – presumably in case they spilled HIV-infected blood. According to RVT lore, Lily Savage kicked off from the stage inciting something like a riot – SE11’s very own Stonewall – that saw her and 10 others arrested. The fall-out from the incident eventually helped improve police-community relations.

8. Princess Diana once turned up in butch leather drag

The RVT has welcomed all manner of starry guests, from Diana Dors to Su Pollard, Vivienne Westwood to Maggi Hambling. But none is more illustrious than Princess Diana. In her memoir, Cleo Rocos – co-star of the 1980s comedian Kenny Everett –recalls how one evening she was watching The Golden Girls with Kenny Everett, Freddie Mercury and Diana, a pal of both men. When they mentioned their plan to go to the RVT, Diana insisted on coming. So Everett dressed her in military and leather boy-drag and off they went, successfully getting a round in without the princess being recognised.

9. The RVT kick-started a new generation of queer performers

After Duckie began its regular Saturday night at the RVT in 1995 – which is still running today – the Tavern became a testing ground for a whole new generation of queer performance. Its stage saw experimentation from the likes of Christopher Green, Ursula Martinez, David Hoyle, George Chakravarthi, Marisa Carnesky and Scottee, who have since worked with institutions including the Barbican, BBC radio and TV, British Council, Chelsea Theatre, National Portrait Gallery, Roundhouse, Royal Academy, Royal Shakespeare Company, Soho Theatre and the Southbank Centre. And by directly inspiring the Cake Tin Foundation, the RVT has catalysed a recent queer renaissance in Manchester and beyond.

10. It’s a bit of a celeb in its own right

If you saw the 2014 film Pride, about the links between the striking miners and London queer activists, you’ll have spotted the RVT’s cameo when the miners’ group makes a return visit to the capital. The film’s makers were keen to use the Tavern because of its links to the era of the story but they weren’t the first: 1970’s Goodbye Gemini showed the pub, including a drag act, and it’s also featured in novels, paintings, audio drama and numerous reference and guide books.

Bonus reason: It’s a survivor, goddammit

Constructed as part of a townscape of a dozen-odd streets, the Tavern stood at the apex of two rows of terraced houses – hence its distinctive three-sided shape. But in the 1970s, almost all of the other 1860s buildings were torn down to make way for the park, leaving the Tavern standing alone. Since then, it has survived one attempt to turn it into a backpackers’ hostel and another to demolish it to make way for a shopping centre (including water park and ‘snow dome’). Now, with Vauxhall one of the hotspots of London’s luxury property development boom, its future is again in doubt. But we love it. And, if need be, we’ll defend it.

By Ben Walters, author of RVT Future’s 15,000-word application to English Heritage to make the Royal Vauxhall Tavern the nation’s first building to be listed in recognition of its importance to LGBTQ community history

Friday, June 26, 2015

Officials halt plans to turn Elephant and Castle pub into a branch of Foxtons

Evening Standard Headline

Same story in Estate Agent Today: Foxtons frustrated by latest twist in pub-office saga 

The last thing the immediate vicinity needs is a Foxton's. The Elephant and Castle has enormous potential as ... A PUB! It is in a fantastic, high footfall location. People dismissing the pub as a bad place that deserves change of use because of past problems are just plain wrong.  There's nothing wrong with the area and the potential customer base at all but the pub has been poorly managed for years. Poor pub management leads to poor behaviour among customers and the kind of history this venue has seen.  The pub itself is genuinely iconic because of its remarkable heritage and as a modern building could easily be made to be an iconic example of its own architectural style. It's a marvellous opportunity to prove that well run pubs, properly invested with good products and service have vibrant, financially sustainable futures ahead of them.

Here's my bit on the Elephant and Castle pub from a week or so ago

Sunday, June 21, 2015


Some people just resist change of any kind. Me? I embrace it. Every day of my life is so different from every other day all the change across all the days blurs into one and it's all the same.

Friday, June 19, 2015

What is killing the Great British Pub? - A great piece by my erudite mate James Watson.

What is killing the Great British Pub?


The Great British Pub is an institution. It is an iconic, instantly-recognisable oasis of security and comfort, the world over. All pubs are unique. Yet in so many respects, all pubs are reassuringly the same. With few exceptions, one knows exactly what to expect. Everyone has their favourites. People will remark ‘that’s a good boozer’ or ‘what a lovely little pub’ often without being able to articulate what it is that so attracts them. What is that intangible, intrinsic magic? What essential characteristics make up the utopian Moon Under Water? Aside from beer, wine, spirits and toilets, the other factors are as individual and diverse as the general population itself. The clue is in the title – a Public House. Who is the public? It is everyone. All of us. Society. Community. The rest of the world does bars, cafes and restaurants, to differing degrees of success. Only the British can truly deliver a pub. That is because it is a finely-honed mature construct. Pubs have evolved from the three basic constituents of inn (1400s onwards), tavern (1600s onwards) and beer-house (1800s onwards) until by the golden age of ‘pub building’ (1860-1900) the formula had been perfected. Little changed until the 1960s when the traditional divisions between the public bar and the saloon or lounge were tragically torn down and a new wave of open-plan, yet somewhat lacking in soul and character, shared drinking spaces was born. The old rubbed along with the not-so-old, and the nearly-new, until the late 1990s when the wheels really started to come off the machine. Blair’s Britain offered the digital-age distractions of Brit Pop, Girl Power, four supermarkets in every town, deregulation of everything from banks to broadcasters, and within a decade, Britain found itself in the grip of the worst recession since the end of the Second World War. By the time the green shoots of recovery arrived, our pubscape had changed dramatically. At the lowest ebb of the economic downturn in early 2009, some 56 pubs each week were shutting their doors, permanently! How did we get into this mess? Did we lose our love for the pub or were more powerful forces at work, conspiring to dismantle the cultural fabric of society?

Public House Ownership

Historically, the brewers established estates of pubs in the region around their breweries. They were seen as essential outlets for their beer and in most cases the only route to get their product to market. To that end, the pubs were cash cows. They were to the brewers, what petrol stations are to the global oil companies. It made sense to invest in the premises, to make more people want to come and drink there, and to treat the publican fairly. The more beer he sold the more profit the brewers made. Sadly, a monopolistic situation developed through multiple mergers, acquisitions and takeovers until a ‘big six’ breweries controlled half the pubs in the late 1980s. Government legislation forced them to sell off much of their estates and restricted pub ownership by brewing companies. It also imposed certain rights on publicans to stock guest beers. With hindsight, it wasn’t a massive success…

By the mid-2000s around half the nation's pub stock had come into the hands of Pubcos. Pubco's took a different view on pubs. They were no longer essential community facilities and irreplaceable artefacts of the nation’s great heritage but more benign commercial real estate used as assets to leverage credit and capital, in order to buy yet more assets, to be bought and sold in future as seen fit, on the whim of hedge fund investors. The most significant ones still in existence today are the 'big six'; Punch, Enterprise, Admiral, Marstons, Greene King, Star. These firms, to a differing extent, act more like estate-owning companies interested in hard-nosed commercial lets
rather than their self-styled image of cuddly brewers and business partners to the UK's hardworking publicans. Without exception, they all swelled their estates to unsustainable levels during the good times and it caught up with them after the credit crunch. The only way to stay afloat was to milk their tenants for every last drop, asset strip and flog off the estate to developers. It was not just the poorer performing pubs they sold off, but any pub in the estate where a developer would offer them short-term cash that they felt was a better bet than (say) the next 5 years’ rent.

Protection of Land Use via the Planning System

The planning system, until 2012, was shamefully weak. It was strengthened in 2012 by the introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and again in 2015 with the revision of the General Permitted Development Order (GPDO) on 6th April which gives added protection to pubs which are registered or nominated as Assets of Community Value. Yet pubs still close at a rate of 31 each week and we regularly see planners hoodwinked by developer spin and, often reluctantly, wring their hands whilst granting permission for demolition of our heritage and culture and replacement with luxury flats or mini supermarkets and a retort of ‘shame nobody used it, ah well’. The truth is a lot more complex.

Certain changes of use require planning consent. If it is proposed to convert a pub into houses or flats, this change is subject to consent, which means the local planning authority have the opportunity to apply local and national policy, which will include some degree (rarely enough) of protection with aims to safeguard community facilities against development. But the planning system is a balance. The harm caused by the closure and loss of the community facility, needs to be balanced against the planning gain of the additional housing provision. Local authorities have tough targets to deliver on new housing and often take the easy option by believing the developer when he argues the pub is no longer viable. Councillors and Council officers are rarely au fait with the complex economics of the pub sector and the underlying reasons behind a perceived lack of viability.

In other cases, the change of use is allowed via permitted development, and so regardless of any Council policies to save pubs, they do not have the opportunity to apply them! This is why, in 2014 alone, two pubs turned into supermarket convenient stores every week. Pubs are undoubtedly worth more to their owners in alternative use. This would be true for most buildings,
and indeed green spaces, parks, lakes, places of worship, cinemas, art galleries, museums, cemeteries, national parks and so on. The most profitable uses of land are derived from residential and high value retail. Pubs are marginal businesses for a variety of reasons from duty and business rates to high fixed overheads derived from stock liabilities and staff wages. In spite of this, pubs make money. Pubs are not charities. Certain land uses do not make money at all and in fact present a constant cost burden e.g. libraries and swimming pools. Yet they are important as they are facilities that communities value and they contribute to the vibrancy and diversity of our neighbourhoods.  If money alone was allowed to rule the day, every scrap of
Britain would be housing. There would be nowhere to meet one’s neighbours, to socially interact, to let one’s hair down on a Friday night after a hard week. And most importantly, there would be nowhere to enjoy that other Great British invention; cask ale. That is why the planning system exists! Planning was nationalised in 1947 precisely to ensure that communities and their elected representatives had some control in shaping their local areas. The National Planning Act recognised that free market economics alone would serve only those with capital and wealth whilst marginalising the rest of society.

Deliberate Neglect

If pubs are being ripened up for a secret auction, they are often deliberately run down to an extent that all custom is marginalised and goes elsewhere. In other cases, struggling publicans with 18 months left on their lease earning less than minimum wage having exhausted their savings simply cannot invest. They receive no help from their so-called business partner. In some cases, they get wilful hindrance! The media, members of the public, politicians (with a few exceptions) and opinion-formers all swallow the lie. Make no mistake, it is a lie. It is the easiest thing in the world to run a pub badly. When pubs are freed from the strangle-hold of Pubco greed and contempt, given love, care, a little investment, and placed in responsible hands, it has been proven time and again that premises can be completely transformed. The correct operator, who knows the community and the area, and offers something that people want; that special something that supermarkets cannot offer, underpinned by decent food and punctuated with quality beer, wine and conversation, in a comfortable environment, can exceed all expectations.

A Question of Viability?

To avoid the issue of turkeys failing to vote for Christmas, it should not be about proving viability, but the agent of change (developer, supermarket, care home, bookies, Mosque etc) needs to prove non-viability! The smart Councils are starting to insist on this. Many publicans have the rug pulled from under them whilst operating profitable businesses, but their figures will be misleading due to the effect of the tie and the fact that the harder they work, the less they keep, and the more goes to the Pubco. What a previous incumbent was or was not doing is totally irrelevant. If somebody has ran a pub badly, why not let someone new have a try? Pubs are viable in the right hands, but those hands do not get the opportunity to acquire pubs when stitch-up deals happen with developers. The question that should be asked is why were these pubs (31 each week) not advertised at a fair market price, free of tie and restrictive covenant, with discount reflecting their state of disrepair and the investment needed? The owners always want the highest price for an asset! This is natural in human terms but does not fit well with the big society and this is where the planning system is failing us, badly. St Paul's Cathedral would be worth many times more as a casino. The Church of England does not sell it because they know the planners would not allow it. But pubs are fair game. It's wrong and we need a big shift in attitude whilst we still have some left.

A Question of Greed

Finally, the operation of the tie and the grossly unfair tied leases are manipulated to contrive non-viability where the freeholder wants the pub use erased to pave the way for demolition or conversion. Tenants with the Pubcos might be on a 10, 15 or 25 years lease, some of them old enough to be renewals of brewery leases before the beer orders of 1989 e.g. Bass-Charrington owned lots of pubs but in the 1990s sold them all to Enterprise and Punch. The leases went with them, as did the sitting tenants. Gradually, at rent review, the new owners have hiked up the rent to obscene levels and restricted choice on tied products whilst giving nothing back in support.

Many tied tenants pay as much as twice the market rate for draught beer since they are obliged to buy it through their freeholder. For over a decade, the Pubcos have been offloading pubs with sitting tenants who have perhaps 1-4 years left. The new owner typically wants flats, especially in London and the South East, so needs to try to "prove" to the Council that the business is failing. He can trot out the old line on the smoking ban, religion, demographics, drink driving laws, supermarket competition etc. He can restrict the tenant's choice to one or two draught products and crank the prices up to drive the publican under. One developer in Spitalfields made the publican rise the price of Guinness from £3.70 a pint to £5.80 overnight to maintain the same level of gross profit, all through forcing him to pay more for the keg through a beer supply agency set up by Punch Taverns specifically to fulfil this extortionate role! Of course the publican discontinued Guinness as nobody would pay that when it was £3.10 in the JD Wetherspoon down the road. He then lost some customers; drop-ins calling by see a limited choice and decide to go elsewhere. Regulars cannot afford to come as regularly. The business is in decline. This is precisely what the developer wanted. The publican will then, in desperation, sell the remaining years on his lease for below market value, surrender and move out, quite often bankrupt and homeless. The developer can then present an empty "failed" pub to the Council and demand planning permission for this empty, unloved, former public house. Councillors swallow it most of the time, unless there is an
active campaign there to rally round and object. We have lost thousands of pubs by such underhanded means. The vicious cycle then perpetuates when folk say ‘shame all the pubs are shutting but they cannot compete with supermarkets’ and people tell themselves the pub game is dead, and consequently stop using pubs, which affects the good ones as well as the bad (there is no such thing as a bad pub - just bad management!), and the industry is further in decline. It is not that pubs are not viable. On the contrary, pubs have been viable for hundreds of years and have mostly evolved and responded to changing consumer tastes and behaviours. What the new generation of pub estate owners, who got in over their heads mean is that the buildings are more viable when put to alternative, higher value uses. This has little to do with viability and everything to do with greed.

The Future for Pubs

The past performance of sold, converted or demolished pubs is not the story here; it's the longterm survival and sustainability of the British pub, as a holistic institution, and how campaigners are making slow progress in the right direction. Chiefly the two measures are A) Planning Reform and B) Pubco Reform, the latter being addressed by the Small Business Act 2015 and the introduction of a statutory code, pubs adjudicator, and the Market Rent Only (MRO) option.

There are a number of brave entrepreneurs who are shaking up the game. It's very difficult for them to penetrate this racket but occasionally they rescue a pub from the grips of Pubco mismanagement and turn it around. There is also a phenomenal growth in the opening of so called ‘Micro Pubs’. There are well over 1000 in Britain and these are defined as traditional communal spaces specialising in decent beer with no entertainment or distractions other than conversation and social dialogue. They are proving popular and ironically one of the chief barriers to their proliferation is the need to obtain planning consent as they typically seek to establish themselves in small premises like shops and offices.

It is true that people do not use the pub as much as they did in the 1960s, or even the 1980s. Overall volumes of beer continue to decline. Social habits do change and evolve and the market needs to respond to this. Pubs are not given a fair chance. Their unscrupulous and greedy owners have no interest or aspiration in their long-term survival. Furthermore, the weak planning
system continues to be exploited by aggressive developers who are able to outbid any publican who has a more realistic appreciation of the true market value, as opposed to a development hope value. In spite of this there remains a fundamental fondness for the pub within British society. There is nothing else quite like it. It is a social leveller, where people from all backgrounds, classes, cultures and faiths are able to mix in a shared space, where all are treated equally. Whether it be a christening, engagement, wedding, graduation, new job, promotion, sporting win, retirement, birthday or a funeral, life’s ups and downs are celebrated and commiserated in the pub. Is this enough to sustain them? No. A pub must be for life, not just for Christmas. The economics of the industry and the high costs of running and staffing a pub mean that for many, a visit to the pub is now a luxury rather than an everyday essential. In this regard, food sales are driving growth and in a good many cases, a food offering is vital for the survival of pubs.

The government could and should do much more to assist publicans. The tax loopholes exploited by supermarkets could easily be closed. VAT in the hospitality sector could be cut to 5% or better still scrapped! Beer duty in the UK remains amongst the highest in Europe. The National Planning Policy Framework could take a stronger lead on promoting the community cohesion derived from well-managed pubs and insist on robust evidence that a pub is simply no longer required before entertaining consent for an alternative use. Such measures would redress the market and bring about fairness, deterring developers from over-paying and hence out-bidding well-meaning publicans.

It is hoped that the introduction of the statutory code and the Market Rent Only Option, along with further proper planning policies, will create the right framework for those in the most noble and selfless of professions, to continue in the fine spirit and tradition of the last few centuries, and keep the beer, wine and conversation flowing for generations to come. There is one very simple and highly enjoyable thing that each one of us can do to contribute to the survival of pubs. Go down your local now. Order a pint. Enjoy it. Chat to your neighbours and friends. Stay for another pint. Perhaps another. Buy the bar tender a drink, they work very hard. Have one more. Perhaps another. Behave yourself. Repeat as many nights as you can afford to.


About the Author

James Watson is a campaigner, activist and pub evangelist. He has enjoyed visiting British pubs since hewas a small child and has witnessed the worst years of pub attrition from the late 1990s to the present day.

Originally raised in a Midlands mining town, where pubs played a large part in his childhood, he moved to London at the age of 18 to pursue a career as a professional engineer. In every part of London, his local pub was closed, sold, converted to flats or demolished. After years of this repeating pattern, James lost his patience with the destroyers of pubs and refused to accept the inevitability of pub closures. He resolved to expose the truth behind the aggressive targeting of pubs and to hold local authorities to account to stop this needless destruction. He was a founder member of the campaign to save his local, The Chesham Arms in Hackney, which raged for almost 1000 days and finally defeated a property developer. The pub eventually reopened when the developer ran out of options and granted a lease to a young publican. James is convinced that a stronger planning system is vital for the future sustainability and protection of the Great British Pub. He serves as the Greater London region pub protection advisor for the Campaign for Real Ale.

And I'm happy to say that James is also a friend of mine, J Mark Dodds, the Pub Persuader.

Elephant & Castle is a Total GEM that Just Needs Polishing

Squatters Take Over Historic Elephant and Castle Pub Set to Become Foxton's Branch
photo: Evening Standard

What is happening to the Elephant & Castle pub is an outrage. It's NOT the squatters in a commercial property that are the outrage. NO. The owner of the pub and Foxton's Estate Agents are angling to make this pub into an estate agent shop touting unaffordable homes to offshore companies owned by people who hang out in tax havens and have no intention of ever living in the properties they buy. That pub is a total GEM. It should be the centre of a thriving community not the start of the downward slide of the whole area into a blanded homogenised vile super wealthy upper middle class enclave of exclusive yuppiedom.  It is an OUTRAGE!

That pub is a precious thing. It MUST be preserved, reinvigorated and brought back into vibrant use AS A PUB!

I've been a south east London publican for decades. I know the area well. I set up shop in Camberwell in 1995 when people told me: 'You are insane,' 'no one will go there' 'it's on the front line', 'there's NO MARKET DEMAND' 'you'll fail'.  I BROKE good quality beer wine and food in south east London when the area was a catering wasteland.  Six months later May 1996 saw my pub, The Sun and Doves as Time Out Runner Up Pub of the Year.  Two years later we were runner up Evening Standard Best Pub of 2008 (Eros Award) and one of the busiest pubs in south London.  I know the pub business well.  I know what makes pubs tick and what makes them work for the people and the places they serve...  I know a lot about good pubs and I know a lot about bad pubs: and I know fully there's no such thing as a bad pub, only a pub that's badly run.

The Elephant and Castle pub is a potentially massive asset to the whole south east London area. It's at the gateway to south east London, it's iconic, steeped in sense of place and it should NEVER have been allowed to fall into the hands of people who let it slide into a being a shut pub.   I don't know the details of the particular site but it's highly likely it was owned by one of the major asset stripping criminally badly run tied pubco's - Enterprise Inns, Punch Taverns, Admiral Taverns among others for the last twenty years or so; being run into the ground and the state it finds itself in now.

The E&C is in a brilliant position, it has HUGE amounts of potential as a pub, this is a fantastic opportunity for it to be rejuvenated into a real Public House that's unusually fit for the 21st century. Where it is this pub could successfully appeal to ALL types of customer and be really financially successful.  Diverse, exciting, multi faceted and wonderfully colourful, busy, friendly and fantastic! There is NO EXCUSE for it to stop being a pub, especially now the area is the focus for massive regeneration. A well organised, well run local pub with loads of local produce ales and beers backed up by great amenities and facilities and real proper south London pub entertainment would be a pivotal change for the whole area.

Turning it into an estate agents is an irony beyond irony. The last thing this area needs is an estate agents.  The properties will fly off the book from all over the world anyway. The only benefit of an estate agency in the middle here is that the staff won't have to break a sweat to get to their desk.

Save this uniquely positioned pub and make it into a brilliant contemporary local and let it do what well run pubs are brilliant at ­and what Britain is best known for: make it A Public House for the world to remember, a community hub for Elephant and Castle where people of all backgrounds and outlooks can socialise together and meet cheek by jowl in great surroundings..

Good Communities NEED Good Pubs. Make this one the centre of Elephant and Castle's Future Community!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Halloumi the Brave

Halloumi, sliced thin then grilled or dry fried then used as the crowning part of a salad on top of mixed spinach rocket chicory little gem watercress lamb's leaf type leaves, fine sliced red onion, toms, boiled new pots and green beans (anything you like really) and garlic croutons is FANTASTEFIC.

Dressing: in a lidded jar put: 2 parts (a part being maybe a 50ml measure) really good virgin olive oil (Lidl or Aldi) 1 part sunflower oil, 2 parts cider vinegar, good heavy pinch of herbs de Provence, salt, ground black pepper, teaspoonful light runny honey, tablespoon Dijon mustard, 2 cloves crushed fresh garlic or a big pinch as much as a teaspoonful of garlic powder.

Screw lid down. Shake like crazy to emulsify. Taste and adjust oil / vinegar content to suit. Shake try and spoon over salad.

Sit down; eat.

You will rejoice

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

On and Off Bicycles

There are very few circumstances when 'the motorist is right'. By default cyclists should be given right of way in all potential impact situations and this should be conceded gracefully and patiently by all motorists in acknowledgement of the very different circumstances that separate cyclists and motorists.

Cyclists are people highly exposed to the road environment, extremely vulnerable to external impact and, when it comes to basics, very fragile objects.

Motorists are people disassociated from their external environment cocooned by heavy, powerfully propelled metal boxes.

Many motorists disregard and dismiss cyclists, are blind toward cyclists and treat cyclists they come across as irritatingly slow objects blocking or impeding the motorist's imperial way.

Humans are all prone to gormless moments, all capable of fault, all of making blunderingly stupid absences of attention and all capable of these while on the road in charge of a vehicle whether self propelled or motorised.

What ever the situation, whoever makes the mistake whether cyclist or motorist, a mistake on the road puts any cyclist involved in any incident in a position of extreme vulnerability against the motorist's possibly being momentarily inconvenienced.

Cyclists need to be treated with greater care and caution than do motorists, at all times.