Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Fair Pint publishes BBPA agreement

Fair Pint has done the right thing. BBPA is well known for not getting to the point. That is their job. Any genuine benefit BBPA has brought to the pub industry (and there are examples where they have succeeded in appearing to be the champion of common sense such as with their dealings with recorded music licensing) is window dressing to give them credibility in the wider arena.

Fair Pint steered by fundamentally successful tied lessees who really know, through close experience with pubcos, how the tie does not work efficiently for anyone other than pubcos. Fair Pint has consistently been on message about what is wrong with the tie which is why it has had traction as a campaign.

That any of the events which have unfurled over recent months should be a surprise to anyone is a surprise in itself. Mediation was bound to fail: we all knew this but all HOPED otherwise. There was a possibility pubcos had seen the writing on the wall and were prepared to work with tenants to save themselves as well as their tenants. The outcome of mediation – nada - proved the case: pubcos will not alter their behaviour; they cannot if they are to survive the crisis they wrought of themselves.

BBPA's ONLY remit is to be an acceptable face of pubcos. BBPA is a front for paymasters who continue to behave however they wish. Any change in favour of tied tenants en masse is not part of their world vision. That would make them appear weak and would seem to contradict their perennial assertions that the model of business they have nurtured for so long is sustainable.

BBPA’s well catalogued prevarication in all things moving forward from the status quo provides pubcos the space and time to busy themselves restructuring massive onerous debts; pressing palms with bondholders and banks who are increasingly impatient - and quite terrified - by the depth of their exposure to risk in their investments; and devising creative bean-counter ways out of their very awkward financial predicament: they are effectively insolvent.

The reality of the parlous state of this industry is that the very notion that BBPA’s new codes of conduct are somehow sacrosanct and will substantially alter anything in the relationship between tenants and pubcos is in itself a romantic fantasy imagined by people who have conventional expectations of corporate behaviour in carrying out business.

This industry as a whole is decades behind other major players in the contemporary economy; it is allowed legal havens for profiteering, it is effectively an entirely unscrutinised playground for short term property speculators who have been granted an extraordinary commercial benefit in being able to abuse the tie – a highly profitable cash flow luxury not afforded any other sector.

BBPA is the source of figures asserting that 60 pubs a week are closing to the detriment of society. These figures relate only to businesses whose doors will never reopen to the public as pubs. They will become shops, housing, and other developments. This alarming number of closures overshadows the underlying disaster of this industry which is that ‘churn’ of businesses is, even in this economic climate, perhaps twice or thrice the level of permanent closures. The damage to community this reality imparts on society nationally is economically incalculable.

We have a long way to go before this industry is in any way fit for purpose in the 21st century. Events of the last nine months prove that tough legislation to bring pubcos to heel is essential; otherwise nothing will change; the industry’s decline will accelerate; losing thousands more potentially viable local business assets in the process, further damaging society when it can least afford it, leaving a dreadful legacy of lost community wellbeing and experience.

The tie must end.

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