Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Letter to the Editor The Publican

Dear Caroline

Re your editorial last week. As a neutral observer I think you ought to know a bit more about what went on. Sorry it’s taken me so long to respond but I;ve had a lot on.

1) This day of protest was NOT about licensees taking an aggressive stance. Direct action is the only avenue left open to lessees who have tried taking their grievances and concerns to their landlords but have been comprehensively ignored. I can assure you that all lessees in normal circumstances have far better things to do than travel hundreds of miles to visit the headquarters of their freeholders – they would far rather be either getting on with running their business or having a much needed break from running their business. There’s not a lot in between the two for people whose lives revolve around twelve or more hours a day seven day a week vocation.

2) Licensees did this because they had NO OTHER OPTION. The pubcos are not listening to lessees. Pubcos are NOT listening to the people who run their business and make their money for them. It is precisely because Tied Lessees have not been and are not getting any form of satisfactory dialogue with pubcos - at any level – that people from many backgrounds joined together in the protest at Enterprise and Punch.

3) There was NO aggression whatsoever on the part of protesters, who conducted themselves with exemplary good humour and courtesy throughout the day.

4) The main chant of the day was a statement of fact: ‘Why Are We Here?’ with the reply: ‘Cos We Can’t Afford The Beer’. True, a bit funny, and hardly challenging in the fight or flight stakes. It had to be chanted so that radio and television would have something to record for their audiences.

5) Enterprise and Punch in essence responded the same way as each other – each point blank refused the open letter presented by representatives of JFL and FP. Enterprise were nada zilch zero as far as the protest was concerned and on the face of it Punch were overtly more conciliatory, deciding to diffuse the protest by being convivial. Punch lessees were invited in for a chat with coffee and biscuits. Unfortunately the apparently cordial invitation was not extended to spouses who working in the pubs and whose name was not on the lease. Finally, when the open letter was presented to Nigel Turpin and co the Punch united front of smiles and warmth instantly evaporated and they became distinctly frosty and standoffish – completely blanking the letter bearer and ignoring any request for an explanation. They asserted later that they were prepared to receive the letter indoors away from the attention of the press and implied that if the letter had not been thrown they would have taken it in. This is a lie. I was standing immediately next to Nigel Turpin when the letter was presented. It was refused point blank; no press were present and all three of the Punch employees behaved like showroom dummies. It was quite an extraordinary moment; a pre determined line set by lawyers had definitely been crossed. If needed I would testify to their actions in court and the Punch employees concerned would not be able to prove me wrong without perjuring themselves.

To be frank the organisers didn’t expect any more out of the day than exactly what happened. Our knowledge of Enterprise and Punch made their different stances no surprise. Their refusal to accept our letter was a little odd but then they cannot accept or implement our reasonable demands because both companies cannot afford to be fair in their dealing with lessees. Both business models depend on making so much profit out of their business ‘partners’ hard work and endeavour there is nothing left, after paying loans, shareholders, bondholders and executive bonuses, for these companies to return to lessees. They are utterly dependent on cash flow coming in from their estates to stay ahead of their game and relenting on their rapacious cash stripping of their estates through giving money back will just bring the pubcos down… You see, unfortunately, they have put themselves in the p[osition where it really is: either them or us. There’s n’o other way out.

Besides the aim of the protest was to raise the profile of tied lessee licensees in the national media and this is exactly what was achieved. We will be taking more, much more high profile, action in March by which time the wider media will, hopefully, be taking even more of an interest in the real causes lying behind so many pub closures in Britain.

Beware the Ides of March!

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