Monday, July 25, 2016

Emperor's New Clothes

The Great British Pubco SCAM

I was sitting in a Select Committee hearing last week and listening in turn to the accounts of 'pub industry stakeholders' and their views on the appointment of a man called Paul Newby, you may have heard about him in the national press because Newby's just left his job as senior director and still a 12% shareholder in Fleurets, Pubco estate agents of choice, to take up post as the Adjudicator of the Pubs Code, which is designed to regulate the six major pub companies who Fleurets, by Newby's own admission, earns at least a fifth of its income from, as it handles multiple hundreds of freehold and lease sales, transfers and tied lessee placements into pubco pubs across the UK every year. The appointment of this servant of the pubco's caused quite a stir because people might think he's compromised in such a role ... largely because he unavoidably is.

The Pubs Code, which came into effect on 21 July, just two days after the hearing, is the first legislation to be brought to bear on the tied pub sector since the 1989 Beer Orders which heralded the invention of non brewing pub owning companies to own tens of thousands of pubs rented out to tens of thousands of publicans under pub leases that tie them into buying beer, and often other products, through a supply chain determined by the freeholder ie the pubco's charge their tenants whatever they like for whatever beers, wines, spirits and soft drinks they choose to sell them... Typically double the price these products can be readily bought on the open, non tied, wholesale drinks market that normal people, like restaurateurs and bar owners use. Like Bookers, for example.

What struck me listening to the submissions, first of publicans who suffer from tied leases and their customers complaining about the price of tied beer they sell followed by the CEOs of Punch Taverns and Enterprise Inns talking on the same subject; Mr Paul Newby the man some people call 'the pubco's placeman' or 'the Pubco's Code Adjudicator' and it was fascinating to contrast the two sides different grasp of the British Pub Sector.

The tenants very clearly had a firm grasp of the whole market and were able to talk with confidence and authority, showing a lively grasp of all aspects of the pub sector from micro pubs to giga brewers, local ales to global brands and commenting on the likely perspective of the owners/operators of pubs from small wet led boozers to chains of food and drink destination venues and how Newby's appointment would sit with them.

The CEOs, each of whom is taking home the best part of half a million quid each year plus pension scheme top ups that would buy the campaigners' pubs and leave spare cash enough to buy another pub... were by contrast almost 'humble' as Rupert Murdoch would say in such a situation and at pains to express their determination that justice be done for the tenants whose hard work and business acumen they so admire because without them they wouldn't be driving their Porsches and sending their kids to the right schools... or drinking Big Toscana Rossos in Lunigiana out of season.

The first guys in the seat earn a pittance and work behind the bar and in the kitchen and have a command and fluency of the subject that makes the CEOs with their teams of lawyers, surveyors, suits and dresses backing them all the way, look like rank amateurs by contrast.

It was an interesting couple of hours. It's here if you care to have a look

And the interesting thing, really, is that while the CEOs tell everyone how much they care about pubs, and the people and places they serve, we know they don't mean it, we know they're flogging off as many pubs as they can, that their asset stripping is changing the face of Britain forever, paying their gargantuan bonuses and reducing the size of their estates by over a thousand pubs a year, and we all watch the proceedings as if there's a point to it all... They say they care, everyone else knows they don't, the CEOs know they don't care and the publicans know they don't, and we all know that Newby should never have been offered the job; the Pubs Code is ten years too late, at least, and the pubco's will run rings around it yet we sit there discussing the degree by which he should not have been appointed, knowing that everything that's thrown up at this Select Committee will do nothing to change the situation except, possibly, to make a few important people feel awkward for a while and a lot of insignificant tenants miserable for years.

Emperors New clothes

The Great British Pubco Scam - as #MRO Takes Hold another take on what's taken hold already.

On a drive through Sussex, as with any other part of the UK, it's impossible to miss the scars on our landscape that are the cultural ravages of the‪ #‎GreatBritishPubcoScam‬

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Image 1 The Coach House Inn, Cowfield, Sussex
Images 2 and 3 the former Cooperative foodstore, Cowfold.
Image 4 the new Cooperative foodstore, Cowfold (ex Coach House, Enterprise Inns) photographed from the old foodstore site.
Image 5 is The Ship Inn 'Oh No It's NOT, it's the Coop Foodstore' at Cuckfield just up the road from Cowfold.
Image 6 Campaigners trying to save the Ship from the Coop This is a link to the article image 7 is grabbed HERE
Image 7 screengrab of listing page for Pegasus Group, planning consultants to the Pubco's. their website url is: - I get 'not authorized to view this page' when I try it. Perhaps just a glitch on their site... 

On the same trip through some of the most gorgeous best of British rural idyll we came across the Coop Foodstore at Cuckfield too, the site of the former Ship Inn. Right next door, literally next door, to the original independent shop which, one must imagine, is now under severe threat from the competition of the coop...

Congratulations due to Enterprise Inns, Pegasus Group, and Cooperative Food... for rendering excellent community pubs into excellent alternative community use that no one wants...

There is a lot more to be said about this shenanigan but I am weary. 
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Friday, July 15, 2016

And, you know what John?

Thanks John Friary two pubs I owned both were victims of the #GreatBritishPubcoScam

The Sun and Doves at the hands of Scottish & Newcastle Pub Company (aka Heineken, aka Star Pubs & Bars)

The Pacific at the hands of Enterprise Inns aka Unique Pub Company.

And, you know what John? (I'm sure you do BTW) Since I shut Pacific and handed back the keys in 1999 I've learned that when you're in a position of weakness and you tell people the truth, they ignore you, belittle you and treat you as if you are a liar.

And, you know what John? Pacific shut in 1999 with the pubco having given me promises of financial, legal and material support, having lied to me about licensing conditions, lies without which I'd never have even signed the lease, lied about terms of my future tenure and all manner of other stuff and, my habit taken a filthy no hope utter shit hole boozer with dogs on string as the most frequent customers, a key meter for its electrical supply, extensive, rotting private accommodation without even a hot water boiler or central heating and turned it through two weeks of intensive refurbishment into South East London's buzziest, busiest most exciting, slightly more civilised, slightly more responsible, slightly artier, slightly safer and more sophisticated version of Brixton's 'Dog Star' they simply more than doubled the rent. Incidentally the Dog Star was Punch and I knew the lessee there, and what happened to him at the hands of Punch... just another of the hundreds of lessees I know who have been totally rolled over by the spivs of the Great British Pubco Scam...

And, you know what John? Then, through sixteen years' experience of similar lies and skulduggery at the hands of another pubco, whose staff literally were interchangeable with all the other pubco's doing exactly the same shafting of tenants all over the UK, I learned that the whole construction of the beer tie and its endemic abuse is a scam. And I set up a blog in 2004 called 'they got me over a barrel' and in time began to call what happened to me and literally THOUSANDS of other Licensees across the UK, every year, year in, year out, the #GreatBritishPubcoScam...

And, you know what John? I became determined to do whatever it takes to end that scam, the endemic, cynical, deliberate and intended extraction of all tenant profit for the benefit of the pubco, forgetting pubs, publicans and the people and places they've sustainably served through previous generations... And in the last twenty years I've met hundreds of these tenants, I've met dozens of politicians, I've worked alongside extraordinary other Licensees towards our common goal of wanting to see fairness and freedom in the tied pub sector and what has been consistent all the way through is an attitude among the people we meet in our campaigns, MPs, ministers, 'Pubs Ministers', pub sector pundits, journalists, beer bloggers and business correspondents, people who want to know WHY pubs are failing everywhere, all the time, without respite, people to whom we simply explain what's happening in great detail, with clear evidence and verified, unshakeable sources of facts and figures about the national cultural crimewave that's ripping through communities from John O'Groats to Land's End leaving them bereft and grieving for social glue that's been stolen forever by greedy men in dark blue suits... And all through this experience, for twenty years I keep being told by all these people who we've proven to that it really is the #GreatBritishPubcoScam

And, you know what John? You know that 'they' say? They say: 'Hear what you're saying and though it does look like that, I/we don't think you're reading this right. Are you sure you're being objective? You see, it doesn't make sense... It has to be wrong, it can't be on the scale you're describing surely, what you're describing is not representative of the whole, no company in it's right mind would behave like that, because what you describe simply isn't sustainable, is it? Why would they do that? I think some of what you're saying is true but overall it's to do with changing habits, externalities, market forces, competition from new business models, like Starbucks and the high street, micro pubs and so on... '

And, you know what John? Answer all of their cautions, prove they've fallen for the pub sector scam stories and they look at you, glaze over and switch off.

And, you know what John? They don't believe the truth from the little people while totally accepting the lies of the Big People. It makes me sick.

And, you know what John? It's the #GreatBritishPubcoScam that continues to prevail against evidence, reality, common sense and decency.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

I can tell you a story about the pub sector.

I'm sick of telling stories about the pub sector. Mind you. Knowing and understanding the pub sector is the only thing that could have prepared me for the circus that has dropped out the back of Cameron's charabanc as Theresa's Big Top came to town...

AS the Pubs Code was being finally scrutinised yesterday... As THIS committee room 9 final OK before ministerial sign off of the Pubs Code meeting happened at 2.30pm (I arrived late for this because I had a sudden pub opportunity to chase up) yesterday 13 July, ANOTHER meeting concerning pubs was gathering pace to take place immediately after Anna Soubry finished here... , completely unannounced or broadcast to anyone on the PUB stakeholder side of the pub sector - as I say, I arrived late and went through security at St Stephen's entrance at 2.55pm I bumped into Andy Slee (ex big man Punch Taverns) who was ahead of me on the conveyor belt... 'Andy! How you doing? You here on Pub Business?' 'Well, yes I am Mark, and what are you here for?' 'Final reading of the Pubs Code. Are you going up to Committee Room 9?' 'er, No. I'm here for something else'... hmmmm

Anyway. I arrived just as the meeting in this video ended and the whole was passed without objection for signing off officially by The Minister next Tuesday and coming into law by the end of July. (See you next Tuesday anyone?)

Anyway. Cut a long story short. I went down to the Strangers Bar with Simon Clarke and Tom Burke and we had some pints of fine ale (NOT subsidised beer by the way) on the terrace and discussed ten years of campaigning. As we were about to leave we were joined, unexpectedly, by:

Andrew Griffiths the right honourable Member for Marston's, Punch and Molson Coors, oops sorry, MP for Burton and Uttoxeter, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Beer Group APPBG
Tim Page and Jonathan Mail, CEO and Marketing comms and policy director or something amorphous at Campaign for Real Ale CAMRA
Kate Nicholls, CEO Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers ALMR
Andy Slee ex Punch Taverns external affairs now 'independent put trade consultant'
Nick Stafford Commercial Director Society of Independent Brewers SIBA
John Longden CEO Pub is the Hub PitH
Mike Clist, MD British Institute of Innkeepers BII

and a couple of others who got by me without me being able to clock them (about fifteen in total) so by omission they MUST have been the British Beer and Pub Association... BBPA the Pubco's and Big Brewers' trade propaganda poodle followed onto the terrace a few minutes later by none other than

Anna Soubry

Now WHAT were they all meeting up together to talk about? It wasn't the small talk Kate Nichols and John Longden and Mike Clist told me they were talking about... (Andrew Griffiths, Tim Page and Jonathan Mail pointedly avoided us)

I cannot convey how surprised they all were to see Simon Clarke and me... (none were shocked by Tom because none of them has met him before) 'OH! HOW ARE YOU? What a nice surprise to see YOU here!"


Friday, July 08, 2016



For starters Ian Hislop has something to say

Everything unfurling in front of us is akin to a big top being set up by boy scouts who've never erected anything more sophisticated than a sheet over a washing line, to house a circus of aspirational slapstick clowns performing vaguely thought through acts they haven't worked out the punchlines for, unrehearsed, in the round without a compere. It is, literally, unbelievable. Like a parade of naked Emperors... And we're ALL just letting it happen.

Half the country is frozen, depressed and aghast in utter disbelief, feeling they're living out a nightmare that somehow they'll wake up from to find it never really happened; the other half are in super excited, rapturous junkie mode, full of high expectations that once the show's out of backstage pranks and into the ring it's going to be a rip-roaring thigh slapping, world beating success.

DREAM ON EVERYONE. WE'VE BEEN HAD> a few rich toffs from the 1% have royally shafted EVERYONE in the 99% who actually matter.

MORE THAN FOUR MILLION people made history immediately after the irrational vote and signed a petition for a 2nd referendum... David Cameron said to the millions of outraged people "the decision must be respected. We must now prepare for the process to exit the EU and the Government is committed to ensuring the best possible outcome for the British people in the negotiations." and resigned all responsibility for putting Britain in the mess, immediately.

IF YOU voted to STAY don't be one of the audience at this ridiculous pantomime TAKE PART and pledge a small amount to ‪#‎BrexitJustice‬ HERE: just over three hundred people have pledged almost £10K between them. If a small fraction of us who signed the 4 million 2nd referendum petition pledge a fiver - fifty quid each we'd break £100K in a matter of days...

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Lazy Profiteering Capitalism Does the #GreatBritishPubcoScam Rounds

'Independent' pharmacist's letter edited by Boots senior execs

My mate Ed Gillespie posted a link to the above story on his Facebook... And his comment:

"Shameless and shameful. Do not give Boots your custom...this is simply venal, just what you'd expect from their owners KKR" -

This shitty example of complacent corporate cuntery resonates so clearly with my experience of the routine behaviour of tied pub sector 'executives' that it fired up my response:

Have no doubt about it. These behaviours are absolutely everywhere, endemic in our global consumer supply chain. That they only get exposed by mistake like this is the evidence. It's a tip of the iceberg whoever it is and whenever it crops up.  This kind of awful thing is pretty much endemic in bigger and big and giga business, everywhere on the planet.

Volkswagen get their pants pulled down over emissions? It's a sign of them all at it... Other car manufacturers fiddling emissions data? Guaranteed.  A few months later? Mazda gets rumbled.

Sepp Blatter? They're all up to backhanders and back room deals. Guaranteed.

Strauss-Kahn? It's a prick in a vein running through top end male diplomatic circles. Guaranteed.

One national utility ripping customers off? They're all doing it. Guaranteed.

The people who aren't party to the party? The honest, forthright, upstanding ones, the people who are prepared to stand on principles and expose corruption wherever it lurks? They don't get invited to the party. Guaranteed.

ExxonMobil covered up their clear knowledge that the fossil fuel industry is triggering runaway climate change since the 'seventies? They've all colluded in the cover up. Guaranteed.

One pub company exposed abusing tied tenant publican's rights to asset strip them and effectively trap them into indentured servitude? The low cost entry to bonded labour? They're all at it, everywhere, from top to bottom and getting away with it,with collusion by government and most of the organisations in the supply chain and 'independent' management of the entire tied pub sector hegemony ... Guaranteed.

This is the top end of the insane corruption and filth that world commerce and production is greased with and we're swimming in it, we're all in it together.

And it's incumbent upon everyone who's not directly swept up in the mess: WE HAVE TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Government to discuss Pubs Code with British Beer and Pub Association which deems key parts "unworkable"

As reported in City AM by Francesca Washtell @fwashtell

My comment on CITY AM. AS of 11.00 Saturday 23 April it hadn't been approved.

It's understandable the British Beer and Pub Association is begging for 'transition' time to train its members '1000 colleagues' because in the last eighteen months these highly trained 'Business Development' employees have been going round the 13,000 or so tied pubs in their massive estates and telling their tied 'business partner' tenant leaseholders (publicans to the general public) that MRO (the Market Rent Only option - the legally enshrined right for publicans to become free of tie and to retail beers they source from the open market at open market price (read: real ale; craft and smaller batch beers customers actually want to drink; and the same old global brands we all know and love, at prices that don't need a mortgage advisor to arrange when buying a round) that:

a) MRO will not apply to them

b) MRO will mean their rent will double, or even treble to compensate the pubco's for loss of profits on the beer or

c) if the leaseholder tells the pubco they intend to go for MRO the pubco will give the tenant notice to quit for either:

i) taking the pub back to become part of their newly established managed pub estate

ii) intention to change of use.

There are stories among tied publican circles of pubco's coercing tenants to sign new contracts in advance of the legislation (this is called 'gaming) and many more examples of pubco's selling large numbers of pubs, hundreds, in one go and with them their sitting tenant tied publicans to property developers who won't be affected by the legislation and are then increasing the wholesale prices and reducing the number of beers the tenants can buy... and squeezing them to leave their pubs and homes to be turned into shops or housing. It is a feudal nightmare if you're a publican under one of these profiteering bully boy pseudo pub companies.

The need for legislation was first clearly identified by Select Committee in 2004 since when there's been five further Govt investigations and more market consultations in the pub sector all establishing that pubco's were profiteering by asset stripping Britain's pubs and serially churning tenants through leases then, when the pubs have been run into the ground, flogging them off for alternative use.

In short pubco's have only had twelve years' notice that their mediaeval business practices were on watch; Two years' notice of legislation being definitely likely to be implemented; 18 months since the proposed regulations passed into law in principle and six months since the detail of written draft law was published, to get themselves ready to tell their colleagues that they can no longer shaft their thousands of tenants and get away with it with impunity.

No wonder the pubco's need another six months to begin packing their bags on bad business practice.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

More on the Establishment

I've been involved in this area of Protecting Pubs for over a decade.

I'm one of many people who have been (tirelessly and selflessly though described by the multi million per year earning CEO's of the pubco's as being 'self serving with a personal agenda') been working our butts off for YEARS trying to expose the #GreatBritishPubcoScam In this time I've seen journalists and production companies take a serious interest - and have seen some of those come to publication in dilute form from the original synopsis. on at least three occasions a Panorama / Dispatches has been about to be commissioned. There has been a Sunday Times expose in the offing, a Sunday Mirror, a Financial Times, and so on... we got feedback Steve Corbettcan confirm on the FT that their editorial desk got threats of litigation within three days of our delivering a massive amount of verifiable evidence to a journalist on the churn rates of Punch Taverns pubs between 2006 and 2008.

In every instance - at some point along the line - the story gets diluted or hits buffers and doesn't get made... and there is never a reason given for why - in every instance the trail / scent just tails out and there's no further contact made with the people concerned... There is no doubt there is a conspiracy and it's rooted in the Pubco's and Family brewers being totally at ONE on this - deny abuse of the beer tie, with aggressive, litigious threat - and manipulate the narrative. It definitely happens right up to government level, BEYOND Select Committee and departmental responsibility. The evidence for this assertion lies in the complete lack of these stories coming together in a cogent properly joined up way for public consumption. OH, and in the Tories three line whip against the Market Rent Only option coming into effect via the vehicle of the Small Business Enterprise and Employment Act 2015... the Tories are up to their neck in it. But then Labour obfuscated and pushed it around for years as well... the glue that is keeping  the Pubco Establishment together is ... more later

The scam is touched on in dribs and drabs in local news stories and short slots in national newspapers (usually business pages) and on television... all the massive amount of evidence there is does not get gathered up and NEVER gets joined up into the mainstream.

I've been involved in Publican and Tied Tenant led groups gathering evidence and delivering it to Government since 2004... and this is not just some insignificant disgruntled rump of pubs - this is major stuff including evidence gathered by Federation of Small Businesses, Forum for Private Business, GMB and Unite Unions and several tenant groups with between them several thousand tied publicans. Remember Tied Publicans NEVER put their head above the parapet because they live in fear of being pressurised, bullied, evicted, bankrupted by their 'business partners'... even writing these words, couching the reality this way, seems so extreme to modern sensibilities about business it seems an exaggeration - but in all honesty - anyone on the outside of the reality of the sordid goings on in the tied pub sector cannot possible rationalise the reality because it IS so extreme.

AND WHY would any of it get into the mainstream press? There are hundreds of £millions at stake in profiteering from the downfall of pubs everywhere... :

Tied Pubco's need to sell for alternative use because their revenue streams are less than the amount they HAVE to pay in debt interest - if they do not make their payments they go into default. Pubs are being used as cash flow.

Where pubco's dont' render the pubs into the outside market they become landlords directly to Tesco Coop whoever - Enterprise Inns recent business forecast announced an average rental income on their 'pubs' as supermarkets at £58K a year. The average rent on 'their' pubs that are still pubs is £36K - doesn't take a genius to figure out why they want their pub estate to go the way of NOT being pubs...

End users of the pubs - in succession: ie: betting shop chains, Sainsbury's; Tesco; Coop Food; McDonalds; Lidl, Aldi etc - interspersed by hundreds of small time (big to you and me) petty developers rendering pubs into residential / shops / other alternative retail use everywhere - there is a LOT of money to be made out of these units

And around the country there are hundreds of people interested in buying pubs to turn them into houses for themselves>

WHY would ANY of the above want what is happening to stop? They are all profiting hugely from the demise of pubs.

The Coop and CAMRA BOTH are at the forefront of the Government's OFFICIAL Pubs' Preserving measures through promoting ACV status and the saving of pubs via the mechanism of the Localism Act and the Community Shares scheme - Locality, Social Investment Business, Power to Change, Big Potential and other smaller granting initiatives have been set up to fund these areas with tax payer / Big Lottery money - such as with the £3.6 million just announced to support these programmes.

These schemes are not even worthy. They get more column inches than the whole of the rest of the pub sector put together - that's an area of economic activity involving at the moment fewer than 60 pubs nationally against a sector that has around 40,000 units overall and several £billion turnover against perhaps £30 million a year with a projected expansion in the community pubs' sphere to maybe (maybe) 140 pubs by 2018. Does that make sense? At ALL?

To help save 80 pubs over two years - it is a statistically, data wise - completely insignificant intervention in the market. Plunkett Foundation already has OVER 100 communities showing interest NOW at this moment in trying to save their pubs market evidence proves that like clockwork in the next 2 years another 3,000 pubs will be sold for alternative use out of the tied pub sector... to pay interest instalments (NOT capital) on the debts the pubco's raised to buy the pubs in the first place...

The figures, the sums tell the truth, it is ALL about money and NOTHING to do with the desire among communities to see their local pubs preserved and thriving, generating social capital and community well being... Quite simply the press and mainstream media aren't allowed to report it.

Though Coop and CAMRA are at the forefront of saving pubs they both are complicit, COOP and CAMRA in the #Scam - and it is all about money for them too... I'll go into the reasons for their being involved later if anyone is interested. I have to go and see a man about a pub right now...

There can be no doubt whatsoever that CAMRA HQ is an absolutely structural part of the problem.