Friday, October 17, 2014

Campaign sparks move to protect all borough's pubs

Article in Waltham Forest Guardian 15.10.2104

The Leytonstone Save The Heathcote Campaign has prompted the council to start a process of ensuring the community has a say on the future of every pub in the borough

Local councillors Khevyn Limbajee, Anna Mbachu and Chris Robbins are being accused of making policy on the hoof and exposing the local authority to financial threat for taking decisive action to protect this pub from conversion to alternative use.

Politicians doing nothing, not acting for fear of 'compensation' for not allowing short term private equity interests get away with exactly whatever they want to do to develop property against public interest is one serious factor that is leading to communities losing vital amenity and social hubs all over the country.

This is a good move by a council where there are inadequate planning tools available to protect buildings that are most certainly community assets - and pubs particularly - from being quickly converted into shops or residential to the permanent detriment of the social fabric of Britain.

Far too often councillors are risk averse and will not stand up to inappropriate development - very often so that even the last pub available to a community gets rolled over to development to alternative use such as this story today from Wyke Regis in Dorset:

There needs to be a radical, well funded market led alternative to the disaster that is taking place to pubs all over the UK - a pub company that is well financed that can take on developers and buy pubs for the right reasons - to remain pubs and preserve, enhance and invigorate them so they're fit for contemporary purpose

Councillors approve plans to turn historic pub into flats. Bad Decision.

Story in Dorset Echo 15.10.2014

It is frankly difficult to understand how local councillors can be so ignorant and blinkered to what is happening right on their doorstep. You don't have to live locally to be able to tell the story of this pub as if it were being read from a book - because precisely the same thing is happening to pubs all over the country and it is called the Great British Pubco Scam: Public Houses are simply being asset stripped in plain sight of the British communities by short term private equity driven corporations posing as 'pub companies' who are absolutely nothing of the sort. It isn't complicated, IF these genuinely were 'pub companies' they would be investing in pubs, reinvigorating pubs, making pubs fit for contemporary purpose not flogging them off, or 'divesting' them at the rate of two thousand pubs a year.
Photo Dorset Echo
People stopped going to this pub not because they don't want a local pub but because it was not fit for purpose. The pub was not invested in over a couple of decades and it became chronically run down, dilapidated and unattractive to customers. THAT is why people stopped using it -

It's most likely that a pubco like Punch Taverns, Enterprise Inns or any one of many others owned the pub and leased it to a succession of publicans under a tied lease which extracted all the profit from the premises, leaving the business to fail, again and again until it would be no longer economically viable and it was sold to a private developer.

Whatever - clearly if this pub were refurbished well and stocked good, local and regional ales and produce - and it were well run, suddenly you wouldn't have an eyesore in the village you'd have a vibrant, thriving community hub.

It's a terrible shame that so few people in positions of authority have the vision to support local people who care and campaign for their community amenities and assets that pubs really are.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

SEXIST CAMRA LEAFLET SHOCK!: Free £20 Real Ale Voucher!

Are You Thirsty For More?

Campaign for Real Ale CAMRA is being slagged off rotten in some places, mostly on blogs for publishing this leaflet headed 'Thirsty For More?' which they intended to distribute to student union entertainment venues all over Britain hoping to attract young members. It went badly wrong... If you'd like to join the 304 people who've signed it so far HERE is the link  I think it's a bit embarrassing but not for the same reasons as I oughtta:

It IS context is all.

IN the context of contemporary society the CAMRA leaflet is gauche not offensive and the outrage it's engendered is as silly as the leaflet. Google 'adverts with women' and click 'images'. I did. The first one that I got is an almost naked woman alongside with the slogan 'The cleaner you are, the dirtier you get' for new and improved Lynx shower gels.

The pub and drinks industry is run almost entirely by men, and it most certainly IS dismissive of women, and that needs to change. There is a LOT that is wrong about the industry but the misogyny in the sector doesn't live in St Albans, home to CAMRA.

I'm sure, in fact I know, CAMRA head office aren't prone to boorish or laddish behaviour of any kind. Generally they are polite, careful, cautious and risk averse with an academic slant. They use words carefully. They try to anticipate how their work will be interpreted out of context.

CAMRA head office staff don't go about trying to offend anyone. And head office staff includes women, Campaigns are organised by Emily Ryans.

The leaflet has been pulled, this ructious should go away. There are far more serious issues of fairness and social wrongs that people should be attacking now instead of CAMRA

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Future of British Pubs is In a Basket on a Slate... with various ramekins.

How low can a pubco go?

When it comes to presentation All Bar One (the ONE bit signifying one of the seventeen brands of pubs from Mitchells & Butlers that this specialist anodyne pub creator is responsible for in around 3.000 outlets all over the UK)  take the biscuit to a new level. Just in from one of my colleagues in the pub business is this photograph from an All Bar One table top:

With thanks to Nick Higney
M&B we salute you.

Their Brands (some of them are 'non branded brands) Go on: Click on one or all of them. Take a tour of Britain's authentic pub tradition. Apart from the German ones of course.

Anyone prefer the days of the 'Big Six' breweries?

Raf Azzara posted in CAMRA unofficial on Facebook

Depends on how two dimensional a view you have. 

There is more variety of product across the bar over most of the country now but back then there was hope for market reform - and back then there was the raw material for exciting reform in the tens of 
thousands more pubs that existed then than do now.

Now the market is still foreclosed to the majority of new brewers, the retail price of beer has been manipulated upwards by a £1 a pint by private equity meddling in the beer tie and pubs are going out of business faster and faster to be replaced by anodyne mono food and drink dispense outlets indistinguishable from each other, mostly owned by ... one of the big six. 

And it's only going to get worse: The long term plans of all the major players are to asset strip their remaining estates to pay interest on the debts they raised to buy 'OUR' pubs in the first place and where they intend to 'grow and innovate' to invest in managed clone bar new builds as above.

Quite manifestly Mark Shirley has a better grasp of what's happened than you do Cornell and isn't into hagiography for the people who've brought the pub sector to its knees and destroyed the timeline of British Tradition and Cultural History while making themselves multi millionaires at the same time as bankrupting thousands of publicans and selling their pubs off to be Tesco's and betting shops.
It is NOT nonsense at all - changing the offer irreversibly? WHAT? Wake up. What are the BIG SIX doing now - to ALL their pubs? They're all the same blanded branded boring pastiches of what all pubs once were. These pubs all sell coffee, or have you tw
o not noticed? 

Good pubs are places of social interaction. They need to be relevant to what is happening in society. They have been prevented from evolving by Private Equity. 

It's YOU who are promoting nonsense. It is wrong, patronising, and proves ignorance of what really makes pubs tick and what has really been happening in the pub sector for the last quarter century... Whitbread dumped pubs along with brewing because they wanted to get into cleaner more easy to determine income streams and they flogged them off to invest in hotels and other stuff that didn't involve having to horse trade with tenants who had sitting contracts and draymen.

The best pubs, pubs that continue always to be successful, always serve PEOPLE what people want. They might be beer only boozers, they may be moving toward being restaurants but whatever they are they always remain RELEVANT to their customers. They do not let their premises turn into filthy sticky carpeted shit holes and their bogs into swamps. They offer products that people want. Tied pubs are restricted from keeping up to date because their freeholders get in the way through intransigence and aggressive profiteering wherever they can.

How much time have you spent behind bars serving people like you rather than in front of bars pontificating about what's wrong with them and telling the people behind them how to run their business?

New study proves pubs’ vital role in rural areas

11.10.2014 Good article in THE PRESS York about the value of pubs to rural communities

My comment in response to a load of curmudgeonly know-all arm chair critics having a go at this report on Ignazio Cabras' research into the value of rural pubs to their communities. All yypical 'nice work if you can get it' rubbish from people who think they know about pubs but who really have never given a second's consideration to what is happening to British culture all around them with the epidemic of pubs closing all around them unabated. Ironically there is a link right next to the piece to another article on a local Marston's pub that has been earmarked for conversion to a Tesco 'Another York pub to become a Tesco'.
Corner House York, Marston's pub to become Tesco pic The Press
You really could not make it up. It's staring us in the face and we still do not get what is happening in #GreatBRitishPubcoScam Here's an interesting take on Punch from Sean Liquorish - see fourth paragraph on

gravitydrip is the only person who's made a sensible observation above.

To others, so cynical about Ignazio Cabras' contribution to the preservation of British pubs ask yourselves WHY there are so many pubs closing forever all over the UK - 31 a week at the moment - and WHO is doing anything about it, other than to sit around criticising on forums like this one.

Then ask yourselves WHY does it take an ITALIAN to notice the damage of pubs' closing inflicts on communities when the British government does NOTHING to intervene in the Great British Pubco Scam that's behind the vast majority of pub closures when Britons like YOU sit around niggling about an academic who's actually DOING something about it?

Pubs are closing because pub companies and brewers are asset stripping the nation's most treasured most valued social capital - our pubs - in plain sight, right under our noses. We Britons take pubs far too much for granted because they are such an integral part of our lives.  Having run tens of thousands of pubs into the ground over the last quarter century through renting them out at usurious levels and supplying them with beer at up to DOUBLE open market prices, forcing thousands of individual publicans into financial failure, now Private Equity driven pub companies are cashing in on the residual property value of pubs for conversion to alternative use.

If you are at all interested in pubs and their true value you might like to read here

"Communities Fighting to Save Pubs Don't Have a Chance in the Face of The Great British Pubco Scam"

And the Northern Beer Blog. The salient piece is on Punch - who have sold three thousand pubs in the last five years and plan to sell at least another thousand. THEY aren't interested in pubs, people or places only in staying afloat.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Communities Fighting to Save Pubs Don't Have a Chance in the Face of The Great British Pubco Scam

Villagers ready for fight to save much loved pub

IN Worcester News First published Tuesday 7 October 2014
Old Bush Inn by John Law herefsxworcs Flickr
Firstly it's important to make clear that companies like Marston's exist purely to make profit. The fact that they do this through brewing and distributing beer and by owning pubs does not mean they look after pubs for the best interests of the thousands of tenants they rent pubs to under tied leases (where the publican has to buy beer at up to double the open market price through the beer tie) or the millions of customers the pubs serve. 
Busy meeting to Save the Pub
This pub was sold because Marston's is selling all their pubs that don't produce as much profit as their directly Managed pubs do (where they own the pub and employ all the staff directly), and they invest the cash raised from sales in expanding their managed and new build pubs. These pubs are always pastiche, imitations of authentic pubs which, apart from branding are impossible to tell apart from other pub companies' efforts in the same area (they're all at it - Greene King, Spirit, Mitchells & Butlers - there's absolutely loads of them, even the 'small family brewers' are trotting out the same anodyne carbon copy formula food and drink dispense units across the country) . This is all part of the Great British Pubco Scam where Private Equity is asset stripping traditional British pubs for their property value while wilfully destroying thousands of publicans' businesses, their livelihoods, their family stability and the enjoyment of the millions of people who have used their pubs as Valuable Community Assets for hundreds of years.

Earlier in 2014 Marston's sold more than 200 trading pubs to New River Retail who are in the process of converting them to other use, often into supermarkets, specifically to get around irritating issues like communities trying to prevent change of use when they hear their pub is going to be sold. ACV only comes into force when the owner puts the building up for sale... If change of use is planned by an existing owner the ACV status offers no protection at all. An example of this kind of activity designed to get around the small difficulty that ACV status confers on a building is that pub companies elsewhere - Punch Taverns and Enterprise Inns - have begun renting their pubs direct to Tesco.

Second: Almost everything the article states about protection conferred by of Asset of Community Value is wrong:

ACV status does NOT impose charity status on a pub, or any other community asset, and ACV has nothing to do with the Charities Commission.

Once granted, ACV status puts a six month moratorium on the sale of a property by its existing owner to another owner. AS the Bush Inn is already owned by the person who wants to develop the pub ACV has no impact here - the pub has ALREADY been sold. The horse bolted when the pub was bought at auction.

ACV status does not OBLIGE the seller to accept an offer from the community who raised the ACY even IF the community has raised finance and made the highest offer for the pub/asset.

From earlier comments it's clear that this pub would thrive if properly invested in and well managed.

While I know nothing about this pub directly these things can be stated with confidence as the same thing is happening to pubs all over the UK where 31 pubs are closing forever every week. It is a national crisis taking place in plain view of us all but largely ignored because between them the pubco's and tied pub owning brewers like Marston's have deliberately divided and conquered the nation and bamboozled public opinion about pubs through their industry mouthpiece the British Beer and Pub Association - their trade body who put out press releases continuously telling that pubs are closing because of dozens of problems that amount to a perfect storm for the pub sector.

BBPA says pubs are closing because of external economic factors like - the smoking ban, beer duty excalator, tax generally, business rates, competition from cheap supermarket booze, changing consumer habits, bad weather (seriously!), red tape, social media, television and home entertainment. There are a million reasons why people are abandoning pubs - none of which are the sky high prices the BBPA's members charge their tens of thousands of publican tenants for their Tied rents and wholesale beer supplies they oblige them to buy at up to DOUBLE open market prices... Leaving the majority of pubs in the UK to compete against the Managed Divisions of the pubco's while selling over priced beers they cannot make a living profit out of (because the pubco/brewer makes all the profit) in premises that are run down, dilapidated and not fir for purpose because the publicans don't earn enough profit to be able to invest in their businesses and the fabric of the buildings they have total financial responsibility for maintaining under fully repairing and insuring leases on the buildings the pubco/family brewers own but have not spent any money on for thirty years.

The BBPA never points out that pubs are closing primarily because its own members' force usurious charges on their tenants and they are profiteering on beer supply prices. It is pubco's sweating assets that cause most publicans in Britain (57% of all Tied Tenants) to earn less than £10K a year, usually between two people - Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) figures.

Good luck with the campaign

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Shall we start a new group about pubs and beer?

Kevin Durkan on the (unoffical) CAMRA Facebook page that has almost 12,000 members, less than 10% of CAMRA's total 'official' membership posted this proposition

"I've got a suggestion:

"Shall we start a new group about pubs and beer, which were, last time I checked, Camra's real objectives? Because I am so bored of people posting about the cheap discount booze they've bought at their local B&M's. I literally couldn't care less.  Do you people not realise you are the problem?"
Innovation in the Tied Pub Sector
It got a good response, quite heated, most people just don't have a clue why pubs are closing and use the 'loads of pubs aren't worth saving' angle because the pubs are run down, uncomfortable, unpleasant places to go to often staffed by people who seem depressed, pissed off, fed up and distant, even rude... Well. All these things are signs of the Great British Pubco Scam which has thousands of licensees trapped in bonded labour, working ludicrous hours for next to nothing (57% of tied publicans earn less than £10K a year CAMRA) and, unable to leave their business without going bust, stick it out in a spiral of ever decreasing reward until the inevitable happens and the bailiffs walk in and close them down - no wonder they look pissed off. Here's my penn'orth:

That is a good proposition Kevin Durkan I am a licensee and publican who has for a decade being lobbying government to legislate against tied pubco's and family brewers who are asset stripping Britain's pubs for short term financial gain, in the case of pubco's, solely to pay interest on the gargantuan debts the pubco's raised to buy the pubs in the first place.

It is the Great British Pubco Scam and is the root of the problem with pubs. Most people don't know about it because the pubco's and brewers behind it are in the business of keeping it out of people's consciousness. The obfuscation through their trade body, the British Beer and Pub Association is deliberate and calculated to be taken up by the pub going public, largely people who take pubs for granted, paradoxically because pubs have been such a ubiquitous part of all our life experience it seems impossible that the end of the pub is nigh. Well. It is.

A fundamental problem with the British Pub Sector is that everyone who's not a publican believes they know more than any professional publican about what is wrong with the British Pub Sector and all the obfuscation feeds this ignorance... Smoking ban, beer duty, taxes, business rates, drink driving, supermarkets, duty free booze cruises, red tape, changing habits, red wine, bad weather, the price of Sky Sports, crap pub tenants 'not diversifying their offer'... oh the reasons for the failure of the pub sector are anything and everything that is NOT to do with the FACT that Tied pub rents are higher than the open market and their supply prices are up to DOUBLE open market - the MAJORITY of pubs are Tied therefore the majority of pubs don't make enough profit to reinvest in the fabric of the buildings, the pubs get run down while they are obliged to sell beer at ridiculous prices, customers abandon shitty pubs for nicer environments - like their living room or Starbucks or Managed Pub Chains (this is another essential part of the Scam) - the publicans whose lives are literally Tied up in their failing pub businesses work harder, longer hours for ever lower returns, they become depressed, their pubs become more run down and eventually their business fails and the pubco sells the knackered pub 'suitable for alternative use' - it is happening everywhere, all the time and is a crisis...

31 pubs are closing every week, this figure lags behind the true rate, in addition there are, literally tens of hundreds of pubs under Holding Management which the pubco's try to re let while they are on the market. The pubco's are divesting more pubs all the time and beginning to invest in managed estates, the 'independent British pub' is definitely, without a shadow of doubt, being forced out of existence by private equity asset stripping buying pubs for their development value irrespective of their viability and the rates of closure is increasing.

There IS a Beer Revolution underway, pressure cooked by the fact that the British Pub Sector is a foreclosed market - the more micro brewers that open, the more people are encouraged to set up more breweries - the more competition there is for outlets for these beers and the more pressure there is for the existing brewers to cut their prices to maintain sales in an every burgeoning market... There will be many small brewery failures as this explodes and there is not enough outlet for existing and new brews.

As more traditional, run down pubs that cannot make profit and cannot sell beers from the Beer Revolution continue to fail, more Micro Pubs will set up in non pub venues to take advantage of the obvious market opportunity there is - and more pressure will be put on existing pubs already in a spiral of decline in the overall market.  This will speed more inevitable closures and likely stimulate more people to set up more micro pubs which, in turn, will open the market up to the micro brewers who will have more places to sell to...

This activity is all very interesting, there is innovation afoot and lots of palpable excitement - there really is a Beer and Pub Revolution taking place in what has been a very stagnant landscape. What is of great concern though is that the main villains of the piece, the tied model pubco's and family brewers who slavishly have copied the bigger pubco's rapacious lead, are carrying on plying their asset stripping, closing and selling thousands of pubs which, out of their irresponsible clutches would, with investment, undoubtedly be viable, thriving and exciting pubs in their own right.  What's tragic is that pretty much wherever a micro pub pops up there used to be nearby, a traditional pub that has been run down by the pubco scam and sold to pay interest on the loans the private equity sharks raised to buy it in the first place.  Before the pub closed many successive tenants lost their shirt, their businesses made 'unviable' by the excessive financial demands placed on it by an intransigent, rapacious freeholder sweating its assets.  The success of the Micro Pub that replaces the taditional pub is not really proof that the market supports these new places of social hubbub but is rather evidence that IF the previous pub had been allowed to ply its trade in a fair and free market, able to retain its own profit instead of having it all taken by a pubco in excessive rent and double price beer supply, it would still be there serving its community and it would be serving great beers that are coming out of the Beer Brewing Revolution at around a quid less than the market supports now... 

The evidence for the Great British Pubco Scam is everywhere there is a Micro Pub - most are opening near premises that once were a pub but have now been converted to residential, or to Tesco's or to betting shops.

So YES Kevin. Your suggestion is a good one.
Consider now the busy cafe society that has swept through Britain in the last twenty five years... Starbucks alone turns over almost half a £Billion a year.  It pubs had evolved in a free market it's not easy to imagine pubs being the place of choice for millions of coffee and tea drinkers to spend time. They are, after all, the iconic place of relaxation and socialising in the UK.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Anthony Chose To Make Improvements Himself

While Anthony has chosen to make improvements to the interior himself

"While Anthony has chosen to make improvements to the interior himself" we expect those improvements Anthony has made to add at least forty five percent to our income from the pub which Anthony regards as his own. We are able to be certain about these issues because Anthony does not perfectly understand the relationship between the contract he believes he signed and Our reality, which is that His pub is in fact Our pub and everything Anthony does to Our pub is Ours, in perpetuity, and any increase in income derived from Anthony's investment, financial, physical and emotional, his activities and entrepreneurial endeavour is, quite simply, Ours.

Thanks to Anthony's friends who introduced him to us we are able to donate £500 to a charity of their choice. We take that, and the £1000 introductory softener, straight out of Anthony's deposit so there will be no delays to Anthony's becoming Bonded to US until such time as We have taken all Anthony's assets which became Ours with his signature on the Traditional Lease Guarantee, which, although his Solicitor told him 'Do Not Sign This Lease' he chose to tick the box indicating he chose not to seek legal advice because he wanted Our pub so much he lost all rationality in his determination to become an Entrepreneur with a Big Business Partner like Us to back his industry and hard work.

Some people in Great Britain, principally Tied Publicans with a little more experience of Bonded Labour than Anthony, who's currently too busy putting all his energies into keeping his customers happy and protecting Our long term income prospects, label this state of affairs 'The Great British Pubco Scam'; We on the other hand, being sophisticated business people who are better placed to judge these things, call it the beautiful Spirit of Free Enterprise.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

And They* Say This is NOT the Great British Pubco SCAM!

Unbelievable. But even though people, lots of them from all over the show, in the news, in pubs, in banks, in the markets have been sucking their teeth for months, no years, over Punch being a basket case insolvent zombie company, possibly finding bond holders walking away and putting the morally and financially bankrupt company into administration where it should have been in 2008, without a shadow of doubt, it was obvious this would happen.

The banks that are letting these white collar criminals off the hook are doing it with money that's owned by the British public. These banks have lost £BILLIONS of OUR money already and they're gambling with more of it now. Does anyone REALLY think Royal Bank of Scotland is going to say 'NO!'? NO. No one think that because it's all a bleeding fit up.

RBS has been a catastrophic basket case itself, for YEARS. Built on dodgy loans on dodgy properties wait, isn't that a bit like the pub companies? Of course it is... RBS has done pretty much nothing other than lose £BILLIONS of our money for the best part of the last decade... and what happens? We pay them to carry on ruining British Heritage, destroying culture, communities and social cohesion everywhere. Doesn't make a lot of sense does it? But hang on -

Everyone involved makes money out of the restructuring, in fees, whatever, and bonuses and whatever, except some people who can afford to lose everything but this way they lose less - no one stands up and says "This is TOTALLY out of ORDER" because they are all being paid as part of the process... EXCEPT of course the people who MAKE all the money for EVERYONE else - the people who NOBODY listens to and that is the lessees of the pub company - and the public who are all paying a pound more for beer than they should be because of government sanctioned legalised corporate greed and profiteering. Of course OFT and the government don't agree with my assessment of this - because I'm right - and they are all being paid off, one way or another, in keeping the status quo the way it is.

This is not free market economics. It's Mickey Town and we're ALL being taken for mugs.

*They... Pretty much everyone, even the thousands of tenants who should know by now that there is no justice in the pub sector, no arbiter, no common decency, no adherence to laws that affect most other areas of society... In the pub sector it's boys with toys and the tied licensees and publicans are the toys.

Everyone watch over the next four years as Punch Taverns flog off another THOUSAND pubs for alternative use - and use the cash to pay the INTEREST ONLY on the mountains of debt all these sheisters are allowing to continue to drag OUR pubs and country's sense of place into oblivion.

It's not like it hasn't been a long time coming you know... We've been sleepwalking into this for decades

"From the towns all Inns have been driven: from the villages most.... Change your hearts or you will lose your Inns and you will deserve to have lost them. But when you have lost your Inns drown your empty selves, for you will have lost the last of England.

HILAIRE BELLOC This and That 1912