Monday, February 01, 2010

J Mark Dodds

Please join and support the valuable work Fair Pint has been doing for the pub industry. We need you!

The Fair Pint Campaign got off the ground in May 2008 with hardly a bean to its name. It was set up by a few tied publicans and a two pub trade experts who shared a common understanding – that the way the tie has been manipulated to the benefit of the country’s pub freeholders – by the freeholders i.e. by Pub Companies was killing the industry in a cruel and brutal way. We had seen many other groups fight the pubcos and lose – we decided the way was to lobby, to get political, to tell the truth to the people who can change things. The people who brought in the Beer Orders and inadvertently began the nightmare that has been happening to pubs in the last twenty years – politicians.

Our goal was to end the tie, and to achieve this we would do what we do best – talk to people, be straight with people and tell it like it is. But we needed to get to these people. One of us, Steve Corbett, had a regular customer who runs a political lobbying company. We talked and she believed in us and what we wanted to do – she believes in fairness and that we have right on our side. She said she’d take us on and she did.

All the work the Fair Pint founders have done with Fair Pint has been entirely voluntary. We pay our own bus and train fares to meetings with government ministers, policy makers and members of parliament, we pay our own way to visit Brussels to meet European Commissioners.

The most simple and effective thing we have done by going direct to the people who look at our industry is bring the true story of what has been happening to pubs in Britain right in front of them. They meet real publicans, the people who serve the pints and employ the staff in pubs for a living. People who compile the pub quiz every week, who unblock the toilets, sweep the forecourt, take in deliveries and lock up at night. The people who talk to customers, who know what’s going on at the bar.

Before meeting us most ministers and mps (apart from a few notable exceptions) had only ever heard the pubco side of the story of Britain’s pubs – through the British Beer and Pub Association, who claimed to represent us – the publicans of the country. According to BBPA, tied pubs in Britain (the pubs owned by the people who pay for the BBPA to exist) were thriving, doing robustly well in spite of changes in demographics, taxes, cheap off sales booze, supermarkets, soaring business rates and all the other economic gale force winds that we’ve been battered by for a decade. According to them the pub closures everyone cannot miss seeing up and down the country were mostly in the free of tie sector – where lessees were charged much higher rents than the tied sector and had no support from benign landlords like the pubcos and their teams of highly trained and experienced Area Managers.

This was the lie of the industry – that the tie is like a franchise and its costs come along with a great package of support and business expertise and to back it up, the buying power of the pubcos behind individual lessees, helping them to compete in a tough market. Not like the reality eh?

We were measured, calm, polite and passionate about our story. We’ve been consistent in providing factual information in our message that is backed up with proof, examples, research, figures, other people’s corroboration. When BBPA and pubcos have used their power to pump out pro pubco propaganda we’ve just been there patiently taking everything they say point by point and proving its’ wrong where it is wrong – and acknowledging when it’s not twisting the story totally to their own advantage.

We have gained the respect of everyone we meet. Sceptics included. It was bandied around to begin with that we were extremists, banging drums out there, rocking the boat for the sake of it, spending too much time on trade industry forums instead of concentrating on running our businesses. We were blaming everyone else for what we see as business difficulties when it was our own incompetence we refused to acknowledge (we’ve all been in the tied pub business for ten to thirty years, it’s an insult to say we don’t know what we are doing). In some cases it has taken a year or more for our message to be taken seriously but and honest and frank message delivered with consistency and patience pays off.

The money that has come into Fair Pint so far has been used to pay for the lobbying firm who we work with and for legal advice on where we are and where legislation can go. Money coming in now will go toward these costs and the ongoing work that has yet to be done.

Join now, it’s easy to do, our minimum recommended amount per month is the price of a pint and can even be done in about two minutes on your mobile phone if you have a browser.

Get in touch if you have a story to tell, or if you can help directly with your experience and if you donate, be assured your money and effort will not be wasted.

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