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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Community shocked by sudden closure of The Lyndhurst


Appalling. This is called The Great British Pubco Scam.
photo from Get Reading
It is happening, continually and increasingly so, all over the UK as pubs close everywhere while Tied Pubco's and Family Brewers, who slavishly follow their toxic 'low cost entry business model', are asset stripping our national traditions, our cultural heritage and sense of place in plain sight, everywhere, by flogging off pubs for alternative use as fast as they can.

This commercial activity of closing pubs and selling them as property assets has a permanent destructive impact every community it happens to.  These companies run down the pubs by fleecing successive tenants, charging too much rent and up to double the open market price for the supplies they oblige them to buy, churning tenants through the pub, lease after lease, until the buildings become so run down no one will rent them again

Then, having proven that no one wants to go to these pubs anymore, because they are run down, knackered boozers that are not fit for purpose, they tell the communities:  'If you'd used it you wouldn't be losing it, you only have yourselves to blame' and sell them for alternative use.

 In some instances, such as with Marston's pub company, they openly say they use the money from such disposals to build new pubs (those ones that are like motorway service station cafes) and they do this all over the country too - build pubs that are so branded, blanded, boring and carbon copy; 'bars, kitchens, counters and eateries' (they usually try to slip in 'traditional pub' somewhere), that, apart from the various logos, you can't tell who owns them or even that they are pubs anymore.  And you certainly don't go to these places to socialise or on the off-chance of meeting someone you've never met before... 

Look around our cities, towns and villages. Look across the entire landscape from John O'Groats to Land's End.  Nowhere is immune to Pubco Blight.  It's worse than Dutch Elm disease and Ash Die Back put together, it's impacting communities everywhere as we lose our places of congregation and comfort, our most treasured places, our homes away from home, forever.

Going are the days of the Great British Pub, this really is a crisis. It's a White Collar Cultural Crime.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

White Collar Cultural Crime: This IS #GreatBritishPubcoScam

Reading's Pubs Closures crisis

Excellent article from Gareth Epps 20 August 2014, see his blog here:  http://bit.ly/1vjBUic

Reading and its surrounds are in the midst of a pub closure crisis.

The sudden departure of the landlord of the Lyndhurst and its closure on Sunday is the latest in a string of closures. I am writing this sat in Wokingham’s Shute End headquarters, about to speak in my CAMRA role (strictly non-party political) in favour of Wokingham using an Article 4 Direction to force Enterprise Inns and Tesco to seek planning permission for their attempt to turn the Maiden Over in Earley – a successful pub in the Good Beer Guide – into yet another Tesco. There is no other pub within a kilometre, and the nearest has a temporary manager in situ and is rumoured to be bought up by another supermarket. Meanwhile the Horncastle on Bath Road has also shut.

All three pubs are owned by Enterprise Inns – Britain’s biggest and most notorious pubco, much-criticised for shutting good pubs and treating landlords appallingly.

The Eldon Arms has also shut, a Wadworth’s pub where the family brewer’s friendly image has quickly vanished after a dispute with licensees who had to close the kitchen down after getting rave reviews for their food. Another Wadworth’s pub, the Star at Waltham St Lawrence, is also reportedly about to close.

Meanwhile objections are being submitted to the application to remove the last traditional skittle alley in the area, the formerly Punch Taverns-owned Red Lion at Theale – also in the Good Beer Guide until it was closed with no notice. This will be a test for a West Berkshire Council’s new and robust pro-pub planning policies.

CAMRA has thankfully stepped up its pub protection campaigning under pressure from members; the new Pubs Matter campaign site from CAMRA is set up to pressure politicians to close the planning loopholes that allow the backdoor closure of pubs and change to supermarkets. Meanwhile the Fair Deal for your Local pubco reform campaign headed up by Greg Mulholland MP is gathering pace before a critical vote which will decide whether the Bill before Parliament has teeth.

One thing is certain – people in and around Reading who care about community pubs have plenty of reason to get stuck into these campaigns. Having had to organise an emergency meeting three weeks ago about one pub closure only to be told of others, I would urge like-minded people to join me in this.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Great British Pubco Scam

Tied lease pubco's are by FAR the worst offenders at profiteering in the pub sector and the family brewers pretty much all slavishly follow their big bad wolf lead. They all get involved in kick backs on supply deals via third party introductions to their tenants but their own wholesale to tenant prices all work out to within pennies difference, pubco to pubco - while they all say their tenants benefit from the buying power they have with suppliers, which gives them competitive purchasing they then pass onto their tenants. It is a downright lie and is undoubtedly cartel like behaviour.
Currently, as of 19 August 2014:

Punch tenants buy Carlsberg wholesale through tied supply chain at £143.70
(11gal 88 pints without wastage) + VAT = £1.96 pint

Similar profiteering wholesale prices are evident in all tied agreements with all pubco's / family brewers.  Wadworth's for example, right now, are charging more than Punch for Carlsberg and an 11 of the same beer can be bought for £68+vat from wholesalers.

CASH&CARRY the same Carlsberg 11gall keg is £84.49
(11gal 88 pints) + VAT = £ 1.15 pint (+ free 6 bots of wine with order of 3 kegs)

Without any negotiation for volume discounts. Independent wholesaler prices are less than Cash&Carry.

Compare contrast with:

J D Wetherspoon's SELLING the same Carlsberg for £1.80-£1.99 a pint inc Vat

Punch, Enterprise et al buying power is undoubtedly as strong as Wetherspoon's - their estates are considerably larger and annual volumes greater. They OBLIGE their tenants to BUY beer at the same price, or more, than JDW charge customers over the bar. JDW consistently outperforms much of the rest of the pub sector in profitability.

Punch and Enterprise et all profiteer and still cannot keep up with their gargantuan interest payments on debt 

It is a scam

Sunday, August 17, 2014

CEO of Marston's Pubs and His 'F-All' Plan to Save #GreatBritishPubcoScam

Ralph Findlay makes me chuckle. HERE he is  interviewed in Mail on Sunday business section (17 August 2014) rambling on about his 'F-Plan to save the Great British Pub. Now I like a bit of alliteration as much as the next amateur blogger but Ralph is straying into the territory a little too Flippantly For my Flavours.

RALPH FINDLAY INTERVIEW: My F-Plan* to save the Great British pub... that's females, family, food and forty to fifty-somethings

photo copyright Paul Lewis 
All smiling and happy in front of the bar with a pint in hand ready to pull in his (somewhat in excess of) £500K+ a year pay packet while he pumps out his story about his long tenure at the top of the British Pub Sector; bravely preserving pubs for ordinary plebs like you and me... Oh and while doing so enjoying the opportunity to have a little dig at the pubco's who are even naughtier than Marston's (Punch Taverns in particular - Punch being everyone's whipping boy at the moment) ... and being naughtier than Marston's IS, I assure you as the Pub Persuader, a bit of a challenge when you know what they really get up to in the Fetid Feudal undergrowth that is the #GreatBritishPubcoScam... and don't forget that ALL the pubco's claim to preserve pubs for people and places when, actually, they are all at it, flogging them off as fast as they can as property prices rocket and the British Public hasn't fully grasped the depth of loss that their naughtiness is having on our culture and community everywhere.

F-Plan Ralph doesn't mention, of course the other part of his Plan, which proves that he cares to do F-ALL about pubs, really, other than treat them as widgets to be pushed around a balance sheet from one row to another until they fall off the page into a more lucrative form of income for his back pocket sorry his shareholders' long term benefit and the detriment of the publicans who run the pubs and the communities they serve... As in the not long past case where Ralph sold off TWO HUNDRED AND TWO of Marston's under-performing (as far as Ralph's bonus scheme dictates) community pubs to New River Retail for £90 million. That's what Ralph spends on New Builds every year so a nice flip from Out With the Old (and all the tenants and the communities they served, to an out and out property developer who works with Tesco and Coop among other not pub interested co's) to In With the New - the high EBITDA Marston's Managed chain of modern pastiche pubs that are branded, blanded, carbon copied and rolled out across the country, where every Monday is Burger Night All Day and the food and beers are the same from John O'Groats to Land's End.

You Are F-PlanTastic Ralph! Pub lovers all over the British Isles Salute YOU!

UPDATE 20 August 2014: Ralph Findlay blames Politicians for the failure of Marston's pubs.

Pro Pub People Perfect Pint Missing the Point About Pubs

A TWEET came up today which got me thinking - of more below - on a Facebook link, which reminded me about Perfect Pint ( www.perfectpint.co.uk ) who are doing some really good things... Salut Perfect Pint! Their website is good to look at and simple to use. They have a slick well thought out promo / intro video:
They've done an APP that guides beer fans to their favourite beers, all over the UK (which if the reviews left on the Google Play download are representative, needs some work to get working as smooth and slick as their website - but that's fine and they say 'as it is a first release and a learning curve for both yourselves and us, please do send us any and all feedback you may have. We'll be updating the app regularly to make sure it is what everyone has been hoping for!***' which is fine by me...
Their Twitter account has almost 30,000 followers and their Facebook page over 22,000 likes. From the adverts on their site it looks like they are monetising (making money) their efforts. Good on them, it really is good stuff.

I talked to them a few years ago when they were getting going...  it was set up by some people who own pubs and like ale and were always having difficulty figuring out where they could find a decent pint when they weren't running their own pubs. They don't want to get into looking at why pubs are closing they're interested in beer and their pubs aren't tied - 'and because all that is a bit negative isn't it really' isn't it (?) - well, it's happening, everywhere, and no one can miss it. SO, I personally don't see how it's 'negative' to acknowledge this, point it out, and have a go at figuring out WHY it's happening. Anyway

What most people who write, commentate, vlog and talk and lobby about when it comes to pubs in the UK is not about pubs. They do it all about BEER. Now I can understand this, slightly, but the fact is that without PUBS there's nowhere to buy BEER. That is why micro pubs are popping up all over the country and people, communities, everywhere, are becoming so concerned about THEIR PUBS ARE CLOSING that they are beginning to mobilise to try and buy their Locals as the Pubco's try to flog them off for alternative use. The efforts to fight the tide of closures are huge, stalwart and determined but in the face of the torrent of collapsing failing pubs it's like a kiddie with a finger stuck in the bottom of a crack in a dam.

My thoughts on Perfect Pint's Tweet:

For a short thing it has a lot of irritating misspelling and grammar. Its sentiments are that: Sentimental.
It misses the point completely which is that pubs, while crucial to the community, cannot serve their community unless they're financially viable - and pubs increasingly are NOT financially viable because they are being asset stripped by pub companies and being run into the ground while being supplied with beer at outrageous prices up to double open market rate and customers are abandoning them in droves, looking for better appointed 'pubs' that are, as often as not, part of well funded managed pub estates usually owned by the same pubco's who are closing the pubs which people like Perfect Pint are asking people to go into and spend a tenner or more to prevent them from closing. It's silly. Customers are not going to go and stand in a worn out pub and buy beer to save it from the economic realities surrounding its ownership and the imbalance of risk and reward there is between the freeholder and the publican.
It's not rocket science - to be fit for purpose for contemporary consumer expectations -Pubs need proper support, proper investment, proper management and good products they can sell on at a reasonable mark up so they can be financially sustainable. This is NOT what the pubco's do in the UK and that is why pubs are closing everywhere.


So Perfect Pint: Sort out your spelling and grammar and get with the pro pub programme instead of promulgating part of the pro pubco propaganda as peddled by the pub sector poodle, the BBPA
BBPA bleating on about all the horrible things that happen to their rich paymasters
whose job is to obfuscate about the real reasons for serial pub business failure (CHURN) all over the UK which are underpinned by excessive tied rents and supply prices and instead hand wring about the epidemic of pub closures being due to pubs having to sell dead expensive beer because of beer duty, having incredible running costs because of red tape, business rates and a multitude of other external things - like the weather and England not winning the World Cup - the freeholders are powerless to do anything about, and they ask, no demand, government and the taxpayer for tax breaks and exemptions from red tape and for millions of customers to go to the Great British Pub instead of to the supermarket... It's pathetic. We just need pubco's to look after their pubs and begin to managed their affairs responsibly.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Tied Pubco's Have Communities Over A Barrel, All Over the UK

Article in Newark Advertiser Thu Aug 14, 2014

Bingham pub the Moot House shuts despite 500-name petition

If this pub were invested in sensibly, stocked with great local and regional products and well managed, doing things that are focused into the local community it would undoubtedly have decades of busy vibrant use ahead of it...
Moot House pic from newsrt.co.uk

Instead it's been asset stripped by freeholders who just can't be bothered with low profit centres and are concentrating on high turnover outlets to invest in.
Moot House opening
All the British Pubco's - such as Greene King, Marston's, Punch, Enterprise, Star (Heineken) et al are at it. They all have chronically underinvested in their properties for decades which has led to serial business failure of community pubs all over the UK. The pubco's response is to flog off pubs, 'suitable for alternative use', that would be financially viable if some of their profits had put back into the property instead of being taken by the pubco's as they ripped off successive tenants - and the communities they served.

It's a national disgrace, a white collar cultural crime that is damaging communities everywhere and destroying British cultural tradition, national heritage and the unique sense of place Britain has that comes out of our pubs - the only places were people can meet others from all walks of life and background. The social fabric of communities everywhere is being torn into tatters and thrown away for ever by big companies for short term profit.

Further reading from UK News Nottingham Post. B&W photo: North East Midland Photographic Record

Battle is on to save 200-year-old pub

Greene King at it again at The Hare in West Hendred where local people discovered, once they'd shut it, that Greene King is selling the pub ...

A Greene King spokesman said: “We are committed to running friendly, high quality pubs which are enjoyed by everyone in the community.

“We sometimes have to make the difficult decision to close pubs which, due to a reduction in the number of customers using them, are no longer viable.“This is the case with The Hare, one of our tenanted pubs, which is now closed and currently on the market.”

Loosening the beer ties between pubs and corporations? I’ll drink to that

Article in the Guardian Thursday 14 August 2014

Good article in principle - but way too easy on the tied pubco's usurious business practices which are to asset strip their estates by churning successive tenants through their pubs. The fact is the whole business of the tied pubco business model is a massive money grabbing scam.

It's in the interests of pubco's to have new tenants coming into the low end pubs that don't make huge turnover because very new tenant invests a 'modest*' amount of capital going into running their new business in the pubco's pub - and when their business fails the pubco charges them for building dilapidations and breach of contract on the way out. This makes for a classic low cost entry high cost (the shirt off your back) exit for waves of successive tenants while the pubco's income stream from their pubs continues unabated. The only problem for the pubco's is that their estates are so run down now that it's becoming harder to convince prospective tied lessees that their skills, efforts, enthusiasm, elbow work on top of a few tens of thousands of their hard earned savings will be enough to turn a serially failed business into a financial success that will repay their investment.

Decades of this situation of chronic under-investment in the fabric of the national pub estate has resulted in the situation that is in plain sight all over the UK - we see pubs everywhere, nowhere is immune from it, pubs that are quite obviously run down to breaking point no longer fit for purpose as catering businesses yet still being marketed by pubco's with banners outside: 'YOU could run this great local business!' - we've all seen them - These adverts are clearly disingenuous - IF this pub was a great business - it wouldn't be on the market. By default EVERY new tied lease promoted by a pubco is a contract to start from scratch in a successively failed business that needs substantial investment if it has a snowflake in Hell's chance of succeeding.

On top of the knackered state of the pub buildings which the pubco's take no responsibility for - because it is their successive tenant's who have failed to keep up with fully repairing and insuring building maintenance obligations - the tied rents are more than open market (various ALMR benchmarking surveys) and the supplies of beer from pubco's to tied tenants start at DOUBLE open market prices (CAMRA, IPPR, BIS, et al various studies) and it is simply impossible for tied pubs to compete with their free of tie neighbours, generally pub chains and concept led branded outlets whose premises are invested in and whose profit margins are much higher, even if they sell their beers for less than the tied pubs do. It is a total tuck up - tied tenants don't have a chance.

This remarkably socially damaging business construct that is impacting adversely on pubs people and places all over the country, something we seem to believe is culturally inevitable because of the ravages of time and changing patterns of consumer behaviour is simply the outcome of bad management of the pub sector by White Collar Cultural Criminals whose short term tenure of the British Pub estate is to extract as much cash as possible to pay interest on debts they raised to buy the pubs they never have a chance of owning. It's called the Great British Pubco Scam... and is happening in a pub near you.

There is much evidence that pubs invested in are financially successful. The tied model stifles investment and makes pubs fail serially until they are sold off suitable for alternative use - proven to be no longer economically viable - and they become Tesco locals, betting shops or residential and scar our social landscape for all time. The only general market response to this calamity is a gestative movement of individual Micropubs and communities rallying to buy their Locals and run them under (usually) a cooperative IPS set up on a pub by pub basis. The only possible means of stemming the torrent of pub closures nationally (latest figures are 31 a week without taking into account serial pub business failures) is government intervention - legislating against proven bad business practices of pubco's is going through the commons now but is unlikely to come out with Market Rent Options and the right for tied tenants to opt out of their toxic supply contracts...

The outlook is bleak, we ain't seen nothing yet. Boarded up pubs and Tescos are just the thin end of the wedge.

*modest in these terms is between £10K and £100K - pubco's advertise their contracts as 'low cost entry' into the pub sector. Type: "tied lease low cost entry into business" into google and see how many results from pub companies and family brewers come up - 'modest' is relative compared to buying a freehold but 'modest' is simply not enough when these buildings need comprehensive refurbishment to make them fit for purpose, modest just gives them a shot in the arm while on life support of the energy provided by fresh, keen, hard working new tenants)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Campaigners call on Wokingham planners to save Maiden Over

13 August 2014 article in getreading 

If the Maiden Over were properly looked after and stocked with great local and regional beers and produce, and well managed as a genuine community resource that meets the expectations of local customers and has relevance to a contemporary audience, it would absolutely THRIVE - as a pub.

However that is unlikely to be the case because, although the article doesn't mention it, there is almost certainly a tied lease pubco behind this situation and, as people are beginning to understand, pubco's are not in the business of keeping and running pubs, they are in the business of running pubs into the ground then selling them off as fast as possible - all to pay interest on £ billions of debt they raised to buy the pubs in the first place that are SO BIG they haven't a hope of ever repaying them. Flogging off pubs is just a way of keeping the whole company from going down the pan. It's a scam that is impacting on communities all over the UK.

Pubco's are now renting out pubs directly to supermarket chains like Tesco (Punch Taverns have done this with several pubs and Enterprise Inns are rumoured to have done the same in the South West) to avoid community action against change of use when they come to sell the buildings they have deliberately run into the ground as successive tenants have been fleeced by their 'low cost entry' into setting up 'their own business' in the pubco's tied lease pubs.

This is happening all over the country and is having a terrible impact everywhere as Britain's traditions, cultural heritage and very sense of place are eroded by the short term private equity cash grab that is the Great British Pubco Scam.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

@CurfewMicropub Berwick Upon Tweed; at the forefront of the British beer and pub revolution!

Interview with David Cook @CurfewMicropub Berwick upon Tweed 06.08.2014:

There is hope for Berwick Upon Tweed! Berwick is such a shame... It has LOADS of potential, currently it is really down in the dumps. The Mary Portas thing seems to have thrown the Burghers of Berwick a curve ball - they don't seem to be able to organise anything positive for the town but these people are doing it anyway. Gemma, David's wife, is from York and together they brought that love and care for ale that York fosters up to the Borders. It's excellent!