Thursday, November 27, 2008

Mark Dodds Reply:
November 28th, 2008 at 12:12 am

Well found Mumu… I got a little shock there on following the link. Yes The Sun and Doves is for sale and it has been since February. But then so is Funky Munky; The Castle; Dark Horse; Black Sheep; George Canning (notionally). The Cambria is new and so not on the market - their time will come because it’s a Punch lease and although I’ve not had time to introduce myself to them and find out how they are faring I certainly know from experience is that they are working very hard and not earning anywhere near enough and hoping for a bright future - such is the pubco model. The Bear is free of tie and so their overheads are lower and they can stock whatever products they want and buy them at competitive prices but its out on a limb geographically and Olly has a hard climb ahead of him. Red Star is shut (possibly having been sold on to someone foolish enough to take it) Hermits I keep missing the chance to speak with Brendan properly so never know what he’s up to, and Silver Buckle - well who knows what is going on there? Perhaps Alan Dale does? The Grove is owned by Youngs and is a managed pub - i.e. the brewery owns the building and pays the people who work there. And you could place a safe bet they are losing money. If they weren’t a big company it would be on the market as well. That leaves pretty much the Joiners Arms. Oh and The Old Dispensary. Both have changed hands a couple of times fairly recently and I can guarantee - without knowing anything of detail about their business - that they are struggling.

So where does that put The Sun and Doves and me and Nicky - my long term business partner?

The pub is on the market because of a rent review which is more than three years overdue. The case has been through review, arbitration, to High Court, back to arbitration and is now in some surreal Pirates of the Caribbean limbo awaiting a final decision by the arbitrator who strangely is called ‘Solomon’. If at any time in the last three years the review had been set at what my freeholder (the pubco) wants to get we would have been bankrupted very quickly because the business cannot afford the rent they want. And, by the way, Nicky and I are on subsistence wages. We don’t drive Jags. We are no hair shirt masochists either.

The pub has been on the market since before the bottom completely fell out of the market because selling it is the only possible way I can afford to pay the back rent owed, and S&NPE’s fees, if the arbitrator finds in S&NPE’s favour. Of course the back rent owed and the potential fees liability is increasing every day. It feels quite stressful at times. Like the potential combined bill if I don’t win the rent review is well over 100K.

If I ‘win’ the rent review it will have cost 45K the business can’t afford - money we could have spent improving what we do - and in the end it all seems like a monumental waste of time and enercy. And this explanation isn’t half of the reality.

No one is going to buy the lease and its being on the market is academic.

If, though, a lot of people in Camberwell fancy being part owners of The Sun and Doves, making it into a Social Enterprise and investing in a scheme to buy the Freehold. Well that might, possibly, make sense of the current situation - but only if S&NPE were prepared to sell it. And I suspect they won’t ever do that because I’m such a thorn in their side:

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