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...

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Mirror is NOT a Crystal Ball... You couldn't make it up.

I've been busy since my last post... got a pub up and running in Berwick-upon-Tweed it's been FULL ON for for the last four months, barely a day off, and learned a lot about the Edge of England but more of that later.

What gets my goat and everything else right this moment is this flagged up in my 'community pub' news alerts:

Irony abounds in the Tied Pub Sector ...

The Mirror; whose affable and accessible Kevin Maguire told me face to face in Strangers' Bar at House of Commons he'd be interested in doing an expose of the #GreatBritishPubcoScam - 'we do a lot on pubs' 'send me what you've got' passing card in my direction - never get a response; The Mirror teams up with Admiral Taverns one of the arch white collar criminals of the pub sector, well of Britain, - owned by Cerberus a US based private equity asset stripping vehicle specialising in converting British pubs into cash and ruining the lives of hundreds of publicans and their families - and the communities they hoped to serve when signing a toxic tied lease - OH KEV the joy of being important and distant from the public interface of a pub shop floor. SEE HERE:
The National Pub Quiz is a marketing push for Admiral Taverns, nothing more nor less. Tap in the participating pub (exclusively Admiral bonded) in my case (from TD15 1EQ Berwick-upon-Tweed) and my nearest pub is fifty miles away in my home town of Morpeth and it's called?
Main Street
NE65 9UT
You couldn't make it up. FFS thanks Kev.

Anyway, while Kev is entertaining people at his leisure - I'm off in a few hours to Birmingham to stand alongside my colleagues from the Pubs Advisory Service, Fair Pint and other fine folk who have been demanding FREEDOM and FAIRNESS (a non tucked up free market) in the Tied Pub Sector for a DECADE ... We're off to stand outside the Pubs Code Adjudicator's office to protest that the placeman who took the job (he was headhunted by the government) is CONFLICTED 

Until he took up this policing role for ensuring fairness and the tied tenant should be no worse off than the free of tie (the 'Prime Principle') Newby was long standing (20yrs) senior director at Fleurets 'The UK’s leading leisure property specialist' or a leading gatekeeper into the tied pub sector. He resigned his directorship but still owns shares and a director's debenture, or loan, or somesuch, valued around £230K - by their own admission 20% of Fleurets' business is in pubs... leases, sales, recruiting tied tenants for the furnaces of pubco hell... IF Newby does his job right and the pubco's don't like it - any dip in their using Fleurets means he may never get his money back.

No conflict there. Eh?

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Chuck Berry, godfather of Desert Trip, turning 90 without fanfare

Chuck Berry, godfather of Desert Trip, turning 90 without fanfare


Hail Hail Rock n Roll
Thirty years ago I was GM at Legends in Old Burlington Street, Mayfair and organised the London opening night party for 'Hail Hail Rock n Roll' the Taylor Hackford film documentary made to commemorate Chuck Berry's 60th birthday.

By and Large, 'stars' don't get involved much in organising parties, instead someone from their management company does the tedium of planning how the big night will go, who'll be invited and what they're gonna be fed and watered with.

 Legends club, Mayfair
So here I sorted the spread for four hundred glamorous people and hangers on. When you do catering professionally all this kind of stuff is pretty pedestrian really, your job is to make sure a load of people have a great time enjoying themselves without being distracted by the delivery of the event. Your job is about managing your clients' expectations while translating their ideas into a workable smoothly delivered event. You get to have to deal with lots of ego and bollocks as every client is fragile and precious and special in their own different way. To be fair, some people just say 'we've got a party for X and there's going to be x number of people and we've got x amount of quids can you do something nice?' They are the BEST clients and always get the BEST deal and have the BEST time AND they usually go out of their way to say so to you and the staff who made it all happen...

This event organiser was particularly picky about every last detail of a reality which was they wanted four hundred people to be meticulously attentively looked after when the reality was the club's limit on number was 420 and 400 fans of Chuck Berry would be hanging out in a huddle waiting for the great man himself, little bothered with the elegance of the finger food and champagne flutes... Chuck's fussy food demands and fear of offending his taste seemed high on the agenda of his management company's events organiser. Basically, I knew we'd deliver a great time, the party would go down a treat with everyone and Mr Berry would likely enjoy himself but the organiser's unfounded fears made the whole thing a right pain in the arse.

So. On the night of the party I, being God of the club, got an invite to the film premier. I went with a mate who'd also got an invite and we arrived at the cinema to a red carpet and the press pack flashing us walking in and sat in the same row as Chuck, three seats along with my mate Richard Watt to my left, him next to Mick Hucknall who, another whole story aside Watty and I were at art school with, and him sitting next to Chuck Berry.

A couple of hours later we arrived at my club for the big fabulous wonderful carefully crafted and planned party laid out in honour of the great man and Chuck Berry turned round just after we squeezed into the throng through reception and said 'Hey Mark, is there a good Indian takeaway nearby? Can we get one delivered?' Actually, I think he called the curry a 'carry out' and I was completely confused initially because: 'can we get an Indian carry out and have it delivered?' surely was the last thing on earth i'd ever expect to hear coming from the mouth of any American abroad in the UK let alone in a swanky West End nightclub when there was a couple of grands' worth of canapes and champagne on tap ... You know; I heard the words but the synapses just couldn't process what was coming into the ears.

Curry for fifteen was duly ordered and one of the doormen went and got it, Chuck and his closest entourage ate in private in the mezzanine...

What a man. :)

shot from 1987 editorial for the club. photo J Mark Dodds  Ricardo Ostaccini is the bartender

Saturday, September 24, 2016

A SHORT STORY about the power of people working together against all odds.

A SHORT STORY about the power of people working together against all odds.

James Watson is one of Protect Pubs' founders. James is an ordinary bloke who likes a beer. Yet James is also a #PubHero He is in large part responsible for the campaign that led to a closed 'suitable for alternative use' local pub being saved from inevitable conversion into housing.

Like all stories about pubs, it is a long one; James may put more bones on but basically the pub suddenly closed and was a goner, sold to a developer for a ridiculous figure who immediately boarded it up and made plans to turn it into residential... Locals came together and worked their socks off for a couple of years and against ALL odds, made a miracle happen. Eventually the predatory developer had to give up and re-let the pub as a pub and the Chesham Arms eventually reopened again, completely refurbished in part BY the community, in 2015.

Chesham Arms East London Pub of the Year 2016 26/02/16# Some pics of the evening

James is a senior, highly trained and experienced electrical engineer. The principal responsibility of his metier translates modestly to:

'It's my job to make sure London's lights stay ON'.

To put this into context James' work involves fiddling with cables thicker than a telegraph pole and switches bigger than a domestic oven.

James' wide ranging non-professional interests take in photography, the collection of, playing and listening to vinyl recordings on high quality very high fidelity equipment. He's a sociable person who loves very well kept ale and everything it goes with, including pies; so he's been a CAMRA member for some time, and he and wife Sarah enjoy visiting pubs wherever they go, to get a feel for the locality and the offchance of meeting people and getting to know more ...

He and Sarah Watson (who created the Protect Pubs' website) lived in Poplar for some years. James noticed that ALL the local pubs were closing and became concerned that without pubs there was nowhere for he and Sarah to meet people in their neighbourhood and saw that without pubs there was no way to sustain the traditional weft and warp of local community, no way that people who don't know each other can meet and glue together socially and this became a great concern.

James began looking into this and began to come across others, similarly concerned; people like all of us in Protect Pubs, people who are, for all manner of reasons, alerted to the very serious deleterious multiple impacts each pub closure represents to its own community, as local social networks rapidly fray and to the fabric of wider society and to the very foundations of Britain's unique Sense of Place. That bit of Britain that peculiarly defines US to the rest of the world...

When The Chesham Arms, HIS Local, closed James got together with neighbours and then mobilised parts of the wider local community. Together they arrested the inevitable and put the pub's history back on track... They made history.

IMAGINE what WE, all of us in Protect Pubs, thousands of us, can do together. We can make history on a much bigger scale. All we need do is work together...

First thing we can all do is send emails to Government and demand that Permitted Development Rights be removed from Pubs' planning class... Might put a template below here.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

CAMRA's 'Revitalisation Project': HQ's deliberate navel gazing while Britain's unique traditions and cultural heritage burn furiously out of control

Bull and Swan, Diseworth, Nottinghamshire. Proud to be a Former Pub 
In full view, such as this, of a passionate, committed and sizeable but under resourced on the ground force of volunteer firefighters CAMRA HQ studiously ignores blatant evidence that to stop the calamitous rate of British Pub closures there needs to be powerful market intervention, and Permitted Development Rights must be removed from their planning class.

All over the country at beer festivals and other shindigs evidence of CAMRA's compromise at HQ level is printed on brochures and flyers emblazoned with recruitment ads for tenants to occupy Pubco tied pubs... I'm not making any of this up, this is not the blinkered opinion of someone with a skewed view of what is happening to Pubs and an unrealistic view of the potential viability of thousands of pubs that are closing forever, it's not rocket science, it's observation. CAMRA HQ are up to their neck in the sticky dirty doodoo of the #GreatBritishPubcoScam

CAMRA HQ get away with it by publishing and speaking soundbite platitudes (always alongside a 'right to reply appearance by the British Beer and Pub Association) about how important pubs are to community and society while letting concerned, hard working, diligent volunteer foot soldiers to run on hamster wheels trying to save pubs all over the country, saying:

'ACV and Article 4 directives, used as tools in conjunction between local communities and CAMRA branches work well to protect pubs from inappropriate development, and government has made support and grants available through the coop and Plunkett Foundation, Power to Change, More Than a Pub' initiatives relating to the Localism Act 2012' etc. All sounds very reasonable, thougthful and sensible.

Whereas, frankly, it's ALL piss in the wind. It's an imperious arrogant view that ignores the well informed membership on the ground's knowledge and clear understanding of what really is happening to THEIR local pubs translates into almost ZERO impact on the reality; The published ambitions of the programmes they bang on about the impressive £3.6 million grant stream 'aim' to 'help up to 80 communities save their pubs in the next three years' during which time 'officially' another 3,270 pubs will be divested by the pubcos to close forever and be rendered into alternative use. It is utterly pathetic. The measures CAMRA HQ officially support are not even statistically measurable against the tsunami of pub closures.

To add insult to injury here ask ANYONE in Britain:

'For every pub saved by a community how many communities mobilised to save their local pub and failed, outwitted by well funded developer, intransigent estate agents and a pubco / freehold owner reluctant to even communicate with the community group?' and, I guarantee, no one knows, that is NO ONE is monitoring the success rate of grass roots community save the pub campaigns against the failure rate. If it's not measured there are no grounds for saying the community pubs' movement that has sprung up around ACV nominations has any significant impact whatsoever.

The community groups who succeed in saving their pubs rightly get loads of column inches and even get into the Mainstream Media and broadcast all over the country. This on a balance against no news being good news where the failures ONLY get a mention when the pubs are being marketed as a new coop shop or for sale as luxury spacious residential homes like this travesty of journalism bizarrely doing the work of the developer and estate agents FOR them, for free (?).

Overall this gives an impression that there is a point to the community cooperative pubs' movement; ie: That it IS saving pubs and IS adequate to the challenges before us when palpably it is not capable of dealing with anything like the scale of the crisis. And, it IS a crisis. While palpably there IS a very valuable point to encouraging communities to mobilise the fact is they do not have the tools, and cannot hope to have them, to be able to act effectively, they are being set up for failure and the amount of news coverage the successful groups/pubs get belies the pissing into the wind reality. AND then people who are prepared to point this all out politely are completely sidelined and ignored (as in the hundreds, at least, of genuinely well informed and determined CAMRA members as mentioned above) and people like me who only try to be honest and unblinkered... And when we get vociferous we experience being deliberately isolated from the Top End discussion and being characterised as 'militant' 'noisy' 'ill informed' 'unrealistic' and 'dreamers'.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

We MUST mobilise. We MUST act.

We need to lobby government hard about what's happening to pubs. By rights this should be the Campaign for Real Ale's job but as many, many pro pubs' campaigners know CAMRA HQ is clearly in touch with the Other Side and instead of acting to REALLY save pubs has developed a range of navel gazing techniques designed to create torpor in the membership and avoid getting off the HQ fence.

Revitalisation Schmevitalisation. Unfortunately I've not been able to get to the two Revitalisation sessions that have been near me for sake of other commitments saving pubs, 'ironically', as it happens. But members I've spoken to have come right out and said without hesitation they consider the sessions to be steering in a direction HQ wants it to be driven 'No room for individual comment, just multiple choices to tick' is what one concerned Campaign For Real Ale footsoldier told me.

It's NOT exactly complicated, is it?

Without pubs there's nowhere to commune, nowhere to share ale and have a national conversation. Without pubs there is nowhere a community can readily drop in and share views, ideas and information about anything with anyone from all manner of background and occupation. What's happening is a cultural disaster the impact of which has not been acknowledged by anyone officially.

WITHOUT #PUBS there is nowhere for people to drink ALE in convivial, controlled, civilised surroundings other than er, living rooms. What is happening to pubs is an unprecedented cultural crime wave sweeping Britain.

The Campaign For Real Ale: Ale bought from cut price supermarkets to be drunk in living rooms.  

Oh. Except UKIP. BRILLIANT. UKIP support pubs. GREAT. 

Every local Pub Preservation group around the country, every CAMRA branch Pubs' Protection Officer, every ordinary concerned community needs to take the initiative and write in absolutely clear terms to government and demand immediate action in national planning policy to remove permitted development rights from all pubs.