Friday, August 17, 2018

Silenced by magnitude and pressure of events...

A pub revival project and a terminal illness leading to a death have kept my full attention for over a year now...

Back soon I hope

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Elephant in the Room that is Our British Landscape Full of Dying Pubs


For anyone reading these threads who's not completely up to speed with the behaviour of the tied pubcos embroiled in the #GreatBritishPubcoScam it may well seem that exaggeration is used when describing the actions of these rogue trading companies.

It's impossible to exaggerate their delinquency. They are street gutter level muggers no more no less. They have no moral compass, they run rings around the law, such as Trading Standards; Weights and Measures; Landlord and Tenant Act let alone MRO legislation. They actively fuel a roaring fire in the black economy. They are despicable sociopathic corporations run by bullies and venal power graspers who have learned to look the other way in order to earn a living and drive a flash company car. They are motivated solely by greed, sustained by arrogance and wilful ignorance.

They are impossible to believe from a rational world viewpoint which is how they get away with their cultural crimes.

There. Most people reading this will dismiss it because it sounds like a huge exaggeration doesn't it?

THAT is the point.

It's not exaggeration, it is how they are. And YOU don't believe it. Do you?

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Evicted Daventry publican closed pub because of rising cost of beer and rent ...

PUB & CARVERY couldn't be more accurate when describing the tied lease contract 

Alison Granfield stands outside The Peppermill

This woman is a victim of the #GreatBritishPubcoScam

The pubco's marketing material misrepresents what its tied lease business model offers - a form of enticement which can be interpreted after the fact as being done with intent to defraud - when you look at the evidence of 'tenant churn' in (all) the tied estates (around half the pubs in the UK) it's impossible not to deduce that a substantual proportion of all tied pubco's financial success is predicated upon the serial failure of individual pubs in their estates which in turn is predicated on the serial failure of multiple individual businesses being set up by starry eyed potential 'business partners' the pubcos have entrapped with their well worn white collar rogue trader business practices.

Many things are wrong in Britain that need correction but what will be looked back on as The Crime of the Century is the churn of the Corporate Cultural Criminal pubcos and their ripping apart community cohesion everywhere by deception and fraud committed on thousands of their tied tenants as they asset strip Britain's traditions, heritage and Sense of Place for the sake of short term private equity driven greed.

Monday, October 09, 2017

This Day Last Year I was doing research for the Brown Bear in Berwick-upon-Tweed

THIS day last year I was doing research for Berwick Brown Bear and met Jim Herbert down the Barrels Ale House. We got the Brown Bear open on 8 December.

It's been an interesting year. Brown Bear - set up as a not for profit social enterprise. Living Wage Foundation accredited. CAMRA LocAle awarded from January 2017. Serendipitously Roger Protz visited the pub the day after we opened during the final leg of research for his book Historic Coaching Inns of the Great North Road and wrote a sypathetic piece about this ex tied pub's revival as a modern free house.

And we've had some very good press since - see below. There is much still to do - a year is but a fleeting moment in the timeline of Great British Pub History -

We have convened an advisory board of local stakeholders which includes representatives of Berwick Slow Food Association and Berwick Film Festival and the Anglican Church. We are now getting support from Plunkett Foundation and applying to the More Than A Pub programme. Martin Booth, committee member at the George and Dragon Hudswell (CAMRA pub of the year 2016) is helping us with our Action Plan. Dave Hollings has helped with some excellent input in the background. Damon Horrill is sharing the exciting multi stakeholder cooperative business model he's developing around the Cornerstone Inns group. MANY other people have been supporting the pub in many ways - not just in being customers - and we have recently got a grant from Berwick Community Trust wind turbine core legacy fund to pay for a thorough environmental audit of the building and adjacent outhouses so we have accurate data for energy consumption and a detailed report on how to reduce the business's carbon footprint and a plan for making the property #FossilFuelFree in the relative near future.

Around all of this the marvellous Jim Herbert, historian and Quiz Master extraordinaire has been researching the pub's history... and has published a book called 'A Brief History of Opening Time ... the story of the Brown Bear'

The Brown Bear is definitely coming out of hibernation from a dormant period that threatened to end the pub's literally iconic life at the heart of Berwick-upon-Tweed. The next chapters of the Brown Bear's history are being made as we eat and drink

Monday, October 02, 2017

LIVING NORTH. LOCAL HEROES - the Berwick Brown Bear has come out of hibernation


Been busy since my last post in May 2016 - there has been a lot happening - got a pub underway...

article by Tom Nicholson August 2017
A good local pub is the heart, brain and soul of a community – and they’re vanishing across the country. However, co-operative, community-run pubs like the Brown Bear in Berwick are trying to turn the tide 

A good local pub,’ William Blake once said, ‘has much in common with a church, except that a pub is warmer, and there’s more conversation.’ You can see what he was getting at there: every truly good pub has that in-built sense of communality and shared experience, and of being the setting for celebrating and commiserating over all of the major plot points in your life. That bad break-up, your 18th birthday, that lazy Sunday afternoon that accidentally turned into the best session you ever had: in short, pubs are where much of the actual business of living – the fun bits, the human bits – happen.
But more and more pubs are dying every day in Britain. Between 2006 and 2016, we lost a fifth of all the pubs in this country – more than 20,000 – and last year more than 1,200 shut their doors for good. Many blame the influence of big pub companies (PubCos, as they’re known) for buying up pubs, charging wildly overinflated rents and underinvesting in the pubs themselves. Others blame beer duties and the rise of the coffee shop. Whatever it is, the upshot is that we’re losing a chunk of the nation’s soul every day.
Now, though, more and more groups of ordinary people are taking matters into their own hands, and returning pubs to their original purpose as the original social network. The Brown Bear in Berwick is a case in point. It was ‘really rundown,’ says Mark Dodds, the man who’s has taken the project on. The pub had been empty for two years when he arrived, and even before then it hadn’t been particularly handsome. Mark, who grew up in Newcastle and Morpeth, sees good pubs not just as the heart of the community but as the brain too, forging connections and sharing knowledge. ‘Without decent local pubs communities have nowhere to express themselves, exchange local information – they lose the glue to their community.’
After a quick ‘Changing Rooms-style’ refit and refurb, Mark and his team reopened the Brown Bear in December. Initially, the reaction was surprisingly hostile. While Mark points out The Curfew micropub and The Barrels as pubs doing things properly in Berwick, he thinks the PubCos’ influence runs deep.
‘It’s become pretty clear to me that the PubCos have had such a huge impact on this area for such a long time that all the pubs are so bad, and have been so bad for so long – bar the few small places I mentioned earlier – that people have grown up using pubs differently to the way I expect people to use pubs. They go to pubs to get slaughtered, they expect there to be very cheap lager, they’re not particularly interested in ale or anything of quality, just sessionable stuff. And they expect the pubs to be unattractive. It’s bizarre. It’s dystopian. In all honesty, it’s frightening.’
Mark knows he’s up against it. ’Berwick has lost, as a community, the memory of what it means to socialise in pubs for the reasons that we culturally understand pubs have value for,’ he says. The vision for the new Brown Bear is to be a multi-stakeholder co-operative that’s woven deeply into the fabric of the community, a sustainable social enterprise that can support satisfying long-term careers for staff. They’ve got support from Thistly Cross, Hadrian Border and Cross Borders breweries, 12 founder investors have put in about £60,000 so far, and local professionals are providing pro bono services. Fundamentally, it’s all about ‘doing what the people who use the pub want’.
They’ve got to feel ‘a sense of ownership of the pub’, Mark says, ‘that they’ve got an investment in something that is important, that does have cultural and traditional significance.’ From there, you get a virtuous circle of loyalty, emotional investment, and a renewal of a social hub that lasts.
By way of an example, Mark remembers a Sunday morning on the bar at a community pub he ran in Camberwell. His friend, a regular called Jes, came up to the bar looking grave. ‘I was in your beer garden last night, and I met my bloody next-door neighbour,’ he told Mark. Slightly taken aback, Mark asked him what he was on about. ‘We’ve lived next door to each other for seven years, and we’d never met before,’ Jes replied. ‘That’s what your pub has done for this community.’
That’s what Mark wants the Brown Bear to do too, so the front room of the flat above the bar has been turned into a free meeting space for community groups. Some of the first tenants were the organisers of the Riding of the Bounds, the traditional horse-ride which mark the boundaries of England and Scotland which goes back nearly 600 years, which Mark sees as pretty apt.
‘I think that, metaphorically, is what pubs are all about: history, richness of culture and tradition,’ he says. ‘Pubs are a great place to let that be expressed.’
Long-term, the plan is to keep doing up the Brown Bear, put on events to showcase the area’s food producers in the yard behind the pub, and start putting together a pseudo-chain of community pubs like the Brown Bear – a co-operative of co-operatives – which can support each other and their staff. But can it really work? After all, while the co-operative model is a noble and exciting idea, only 10 opened last year. That’s still a net loss of about 1,190.
‘It is idealistic,’ Mark admits. ‘It’s also feasible. It’s been done, around the country and around the world.’

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

OH the memories...

IN 2009, which seems like Back in the Day when it comes to Pubs and what's been happening to them, Nicky Francey was on the front cover of the national catering industry magazine Caterer and Hotelkeeper The Caterer >< this article came a year after Nicky co-founded the Fair Pint Campaign with Gill Morris, me, Steve Corbett, Dave Law, Simon Clarke - Mike Bell, Brian Jacobs, David Morgan and a handful of other shadowy people who stood to benefit personally in very self serving ways (as Ted Tuppen, the lying cheating double dealing CEO of Enterprise Inns, characterised almost bankrupt penniless people like us voluntarily fighting for freedom and fairness while Tuppen himself was trousering over a million a year in performance related bonuses on top of his million a year salary for rapaciously asset stripping British villages, towns, city centres, communities, our unique culture, our traditions and the very essence of Britain's own particular secular Sense of Place).

Mind you, to be fair to Ted the Shred he wasn't alone in the private equity feeding frenzy that's been devouring the best of Britishness since the advent of Thatcher's inspired 1989 Beer Orders and the invention of that truly ironically British thing: 'The non-brewing pub companies' companies who hate beer and pubs and people but love high ROI - or: Money For Doing Nowt... Into the naughty corner with Ted go Punch Taverns, Star Pubs and Bars (formerly Scottish & Newcastle Pub Company) owned by Heineken (yes, they are all at it), Admiral Taverns, Marston's and Greene King. Brutal bastards every last one of them when it comes to tied pubs they own, along with dozens of smaller bottom feeders such as Hawthorn Leisure and New River Retail, companies pretending to have an interest in pubs but DESIGNED to render pubs into alternative assets. Ie: cash to make their owners and directors even more fat and LOADED than when they borrowed OPM to set up their asset stripping vehicles.

What has changed in that time? Our work led to the implementation of the Pubs Code in 2017... but materially, nothing much has progressed. Ted Tuppen retired.

The pubco's continue to asset strip our heritage to the point of 1,200 pubs flogged off for alternative use every year.

Nicky and I lost our jobs running the Sun and Doves (each earning less than £100 a week while paying over £1,200 a week rent, £575 a week business rates, over £1000 a week more for beer than if we had been free of tie for working 70+ hours and employing up to 15 people.

I was evicted from the pub and was homeless for three years.

The pubco lost around £1,500,000 while our customers' pub was closed for 14 months.

The Pubs Code came into place last July after ten years' of agitation and wrangling.

Campaign for Real Ale turned native and pulled out of pressurising the government to outlaw the practices of beer tie abusing pubcos and brewers.

I moved out of the family home. My sons became teenagers.

Nicky and I became life partners rather than business partners.

I did a PhD equivalent on research into the #GreatBritishPubcoScam have been on committee of several community pub campaigns - have been to countless marches and protests about pubs. Have helped with campaigning.

Nicky started a new successful career outside of the pub sector (OBVS) in high profile restaurants - straight from being a failed publican to the sit back and relax thrust of central London high end catering.

And we both invested in Berwick Brown Bear to be proof of principle for the People's Pub Partnership which is another step on the route to proving the existence of pubco's has seriously damaged Britain's natural human history timeline.

Fair Pint
Protect Pubs
British Pub Confederation
Peoples Pub Partnership
Ted Tuppen (Cultural Criminal)

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

The Status Quo Stands as CAMRA's silence in effect backs a wrongun while blocking all pub sector reform ...

Greg Mulholland caused a stir when he published his open letter to CAMRA members on the first day of CAMRA's 2017 AGM since when internal CAMRA memos have threatened a lawsuit - this response is a measure of their upset and simply indicates how remote, haughty and up their own arses CAMRA HQ are since everything Mulholland said is BANG ON THE MONEY and CAMRA is guilty as charged.

I've worked on campaigns with CAMRA HQ since 2007 when I co founded the Fair Pint Campaign with Steve Corbett , Nicky Francey, Dave Law, Simon Clarke Brian Jacobs, David Morgan and a handful of others - I've literally sat at the table when CAMRA HQ has backed out of the battle to save pubs from pubco asset stripping ... in some disbelief we've all been WAY too polite to CAMRA HQ in private and WAY too quiet in public because we hoped we could win them round ... this happened BEFORE Tim Page was appointed but SINCE he was briefed for the job of CEO they've simply edged further away from the URGENT ISSUE of the end of pubs and distanced themselves from people who are vociferous about #GreatBritishPubcoScam

The 'revitalisation project' is part of the evidence. There was no need for it anyway - where CAMRA should be going is bleeding obvious - what is fine delicious idiosyncratic ale without fine delicious idiosyncratic pubs to drink it in while sharing it with friends or family? CAMRA saved ALE now it should be saving the natural home of ale - the Public House. What happened to 'revitalisation'? It ground to a halt. Why? Internal wrangling and stubborn refusal by some part of the edifice to take a stand against private equity ransacking British culture... What a load of nonsense. What better reminder of the meddling in the background could there be than this?

My take on the situation has been this - as below - for years. I've been discouraged by close friends from saying any of it in public... in case CAMRA responded badly.

The Campaign for Real Ale has a serious problem... CAMRA's refusal to take a stand on pubco reform is damaging communities and the fabric of social well-being of every part of Britain - nowhere, no community anywhere, is free of the blight of the pubco hegemony that has been asset stripping Britain's genuinely unique social and cultural heritage, timeless traditions and our very Sense of Place by running down and rendering OUR Public Houses to alternative use on industrial scale for the last 25 years. No person in Britain is unaffected by the loss of local amenities and services supplied by well run Pubs, the secular meeting places that were the core, the foundations of humanity's original social network...

When it comes to pubs and beer CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, is the ONLY 'independent' body in the UK with enough clout to make any impact on the status quo in the British Pub sector. Newspapers, television and government all listen to CAMRA yet since 2014 CAMRA HQ has been silent on the fate of pubs in the hands of tied pubcos.

CAMRA HQ's refusal to be drawn into stating a position on pubco reform and most recently the appointment of a totally compromised Pubs Code Adjudicator is tantamount to support for a Tied Pubco Hegemony that has been asset stripping Britain of OUR pubs on an industrial scale. CAMRA's position is fundamentally deleterious to the health of the British pub sector. Thousands of communities have been damaged permanently by their local pub closing forever. Time, history, will prove that the true costs of pub closures to the UK's fundamental social fabric are so costly as to be incalculable in conventional financial terms.

Until November 2014 CAMRA was a key member of the Fair Deal For Your Local campaign coalition that was instrumental to bringing the Pubs Code into law. Then, while celebrating backslapping themselves 'our job is done' while another two years' government imposed 'consultation' on the Code lay ahead CAMRA dropped pubco reform like a hot potato - we do not know why - it was just as if CAMRA were a carpenter who'd been hanging a door and left it with only one hinge in place.

Since 2014 CAMRA's absence of a position on pubco reform has in effect endorsed pubco's continued asset stripping of British pubs everywhere and with the appointment of a director of Fleurets the pubco's estate agent of choice - Paul Newby - as Pubs Code Adjudicator CAMRA's silence has pretty much rubber stamped the hiring of a very serious 'wrongun' to police abuse of the tied pub sector.

CAMRA's negligence in the matter is quite frankly unbelievable. All over Britain at Regional and Local level hundreds of well informed CAMRA members, particularly local Pub Protection Officers, while remaining loyal to CAMRA's founding ethos, are dismayed, disappointed and distressed by what they regard unequivocally to be HQ's negligence towards pubs' protection. Internally they are highly critical of CAMRA HQ's refusal to get down and dirty where they need to be on attacking pubco's shockingly delinquent behaviour toward OUR national pub stock, and the thousands of tenants whose lives they ruin while extracting all the profit from the supply chain which they use to pay interest on the gargantuan loans the pubcos raised to buy 'their' (OUR) pubs in the first place...