Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Jolly Old British Boozer Has Not Had Its Day


I went to a talk this evening with Jonathan Meades and Jamie Sutcliffe. Not sure who Jamie is but Jonathan Meades is the man as far as I'm concerned when it comes to the British and the built environment and cultural change.

We had brief correspondence in 1997 over the beer tie and what pubco's are doing to pubs after he wrote disparagingly about 'the Giga Brewers' homogenising Britain with their bland brand beer and bland Pub roll outs steering everything to be the same, characterless and expensive, from John O'Groats to Land's End, in a Sunday Times piece.

He said he would be interested in covering the tie if I could get half a dozen other high profile tied publicans who've been flagged up with mainstream press awards to speak out against the rents and beer prices as I was telling it. But of course, I couldn't get anyone to go for it. Worried about being totally screwed and put out of business at next rent review. Etc.

Anyway. Tonight's discussion was about the randomness of what happens to cities as they grow, develop and pass through history.

I got a question in about what's happening to pubs at the hands of profiteering private equity on the back of pathetically weak planning protection (I really did get that alliteration in) to the extent that the Carlton Tavern (clearly, from the audience reaction, most people there knew about it) being demolished... And how these kind of events are accelerating and impacting on society now in a way that is reported as being randomness of development pressure but really is a scam that's eroding our culture in ways that are leaving scars in our traditional and historical time line...

Ergo is Jonathan Meades concerned about what's happening to pubs?

Yes. Was the answer. Important thing.

Briefly I spoke to Jamie Sutcliffe afterwards and he said he'd follow up by emailing me with some writing he's done about pubs and we maybe can have a chat.

Never know might go somewhere.

This reminds me that the poet laureate Carol Anne Duffy has written about pubs and might under the right circumstances take a bit if notice.

I believe we have to take the discussion about pubs to the academics and intellectuals. That is where we publicans who know so much but are perennially sidelined, patronised and ultimately ignored, will find our voices heard. No one else can see the pubs crisis for what it is. They're all too busy or too self important to be bothered about pubs, or they're profiting from the demise of the jolly old British boozer that's had its day.

It really is a crisis. MRO is going to have a massive impact. The pubco's are going to be combine harvesting the tied pub sector into oblivion in their uniquely spiteful and vindictive ignorant corporate way.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Punch Taverns braces for end of beer tie

The pub owner has not ruled out taking legal action over the breaking of the tie

Article in the Telegraph by Ben Martin @Benjaminwmartin on 22 April 2015

Steve Moxon has it. Wake up Britain!

OUR pubs are being flogged off by fly by night companies set up to profiteer from the beer tie. They don't even OWN 'their' pubs. They have NEVER 'owned' 'their pubs'. They bought the pubs with borrowed money, they've burned their shareholders, they've burned their bondholders, they're burned their publicans, and their boards of directors earn bonuses for selling hundreds of 'under-performing' pubs every year, reducing their estates to a rump of what they once were, with no strategy for the future other than to continue flogging off their estates.

Check out their annual accounts, the size of their estates, their debt levels, their interest payments, how many pubs they sell for alternative use every year for the clear picture.

Meanwhile the ONLY way they survive from being wound up is by inexorably aggressively putting up rents and their wholesale supply prices and forcing their lessees, the people who earn ALL the money these pubco's declare as profit, their thousands of renting publicans, into business failure. This happens to each pub again and again (called churn) and ultimately leaves pubs so chronically dilapidated through lack of investment they become unfit for purpose as catering businesses - by which time no one will lease them and the pub company flogs them off for alternative use. Job Done. If anyone doubts this cycle of events: to keep the churn underway Punch, Enterprise Inns, and others like them, now even lease pubs directly to Tesco; a match made in private equity heaven.

Punch is a zombie company that in any rational circumstances would have been wound up years ago.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Barge Poles and Toxic Lease Assignments

Fancy Running Charlton's Bugle Horn Pub?

ON The Charlton Champion blog:
Pic credit ChrisWhippet640 Charlton Champion
Chris, you are absolutely right about Punch.

And there is a change in the law coming, it’s called the Market Rent Only option for Tied Tenants and I’m one of the people who helped make that happen. I’m also one of the people on the White Swan steering committee. We were stymied by Punch selling the WS freehold, apparently ‘as a going concern’ to get around the Asset of Community Value strictures which I am absolutely sure would have been open to legal challenge if we had any resources other than voluntary to put into the pot before we began fund raising for the money to put an offer in on behalf of the Charlton Community.

The White Swan as it is certainly is NOT a going concern – with a Holding Company operating it it’s absolutely clear that a Coach and Horses has been driven through the legislation that is supposed to protect pubs in these circumstances and allow the locals to ‘save’ them. What kind of company would buy the White Swan as a ‘going concern’ without expecting to shut it and then spend at least half a million quid on it making it fit for purpose as a pub again? Scepticism aside there are precedents for a pub company taking on such a pub in such parlous state and making it work properly – the Tulse Hill Tavern is one recent such foray; Was Enterprise Inns' tied leased, run into the ground, tenants defeated, Enterprise put it on the market for a couple of £million and Metropolitan Pub Company ( aka Greene King) bought it and turned it round into something half decent although their long range of ales is extensively odd… IF they are the people who bought WS then HOORAY but I doubt it somehow. It just doesn’t smell right. Something fishy is going on there I reckon. Hope to be proved wrong.

As for the Bugle Horn? Now there is a Pub with ENORMOUS potential. If it were not tied it would be a very different situation. Their ham eggs and chips are great value by the way. The family who’ve owned a lease on the pub and run it for a very long time don’t deserve to be in the situation they’re in. But like thousands of publicans before them and all over the country they had the misfortune to be caught up in the work of a bunch of asset stripping white collar criminals who don’t give a toss about pubs or anything other than money. There’s possibly even more pent up potential at the Bugle Horn than there is at the White Swan but as a toxic Punch Taverns’ lease assignment? Barge Poles. Punch is poison.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

There is too much going on to recount

As one of the People Who Knows What's Going ON with Pubs I can tell you: There is too much going on to recount. The short report is this:
The Duke of Marlborough, London SE5 emblematic of the Great British Pubco Scam
The rate of pub closures is speeding up. The aggregate is not being reported. It is private equity greed converted to scorched earth policy. They are exiting the tied and leased pub sector and moving the money they've stolen into other things. It is an avalanche of repugnant moral abuse. We are witnessing a massive, pernicious cultural crimewave taking place that will resonate across Britain's Regions, Cities, Towns, Villages, Hamlets and Countryside, Landscape, Sense of Place and elemental cultural psyche for generations... We are "Losing the Last of England" there's little time to take action. And the action has to be significant and definitive and powerful.

The pubco's are being vindictive, they are being bastards, they are selling off everything they can. They are throwing toys out of prams. They are run by people who should be exiled, banged up, the key thrown away. They have proven they have no right to be the custodians of OUR Culture.

Red Dwarf Star Slams Calculated Demolition of Kilburn Pub
The Carlton Tavern, Kilburn

Monday, March 23, 2015

UK Government Performs Miracle: Saves Great British Community Pub Sector with Press Release

For your general interest

Cheers all round for Community Pubs Day

Ministers announce measures designed to bolster the Great British Pub and protect it for future generations.

This government (ie taxpayer) sponsored press release is pure propaganda; populist pro pub protection propaganda the government is pouring out to encourage people to vote for them... the reality is that outside a few smug policy wonks and politicians no one is saying 'Cheers' or celebrating 'community pubs day' because in reality nothing material at all has actually happened.

1) A community raising an ACV on a pub does NOT save pubs on its own 2) Nor does the added protection of an article 4 planning direction being put on the ACV application

3) Bottom line is that most pubs communities try to save become alternative use before they have a chance to get ACV done

4) Even when ACV is granted community is almost always outsmarted and financially outgunned by developers and owners of pubs who want to cash in on their asset value for alternative use - they are professionals, that is their job.

5) The beer duty cuts have done nothing for the consumer other than not INCREASE the price of a pint of beer directly - every 1p per pint reduction in the last three budgets has been accompanied by a per pint increase of between 5p and 15p by major brewers and pubco's. Beer at the pump has gone UP every time the Chancer, sorry the Chancellor, has crowed that the price of beer for the common man has come down.

6) While making lots of people feel good all the duty cuts do in practice is give a huge cash windfall to the big brewers who see their profits rise without lifting a finger.

7) More money for the big brewer boys with limousines to throw at keeping the status quo the way it is and making sure the craft beer revolution never gets into the majority of British pubs.

Friday, March 20, 2015

If the Future Ain't Green There Ain't No Future

Funny this. I'm sure I heard this somewhere about five years ago and it was Jonathon Porritt who said it. But whenever I search I can't find a reference to the statement as a quote.

Looks like I said it first then.

Beer Duty Cuts Bollocks

Unless beer duty cuts result in more people buying beer in pubs there is no impact on the economy other than a significant wind fall for brewers as their tax payments drop by millions. Beer duty is levied at the producer not the retailer and a 1p cut is ALWAYS absorbed by the brewers putting their wholesale prices up around the same time as a budget. The cuts NEVER get passed onto the consumer which is where they would have impact on sales so the assertion that such cuts increase economic activity and demand for beer and invents new jobs is completely disingenuous and false.

This is all part of the Great British Pubco Scam. George Osborne is a key figure in it, along with David Cameron he's been blocking anti tied pubco regulation for years.