Wednesday, March 23, 2011

For Pete Brown's Beer Blog

HI Stephanos. Thanks for your interest in Fair Pint. I would like to point out that I didn’t mean to be disingenuous at all, nor in any case was I trying to claim that anything in particular should be attributable to Fair Pint. But, as no one has ever been given much background about Fair Pint - because primarily our job is to get things done – I hope Pete won’t mind my posting some of what we are about here... It’s never been done anywhere else. None of us is particularly keen to be in the limelight or to take credit for anything other than the fact that we are mostly publicans with very full time jobs running our pubs. Running pubs has given us an intimate insight into the pub industry as seen from the belly of the tie. And it is ugly.

We began as an informal network of experienced publicans and trade experts who had begun to support each other through all manner of bad experiences heaped on publicans by bullying pubcos. What brought us together was the FSB through a national call to give evidence for BEC 2004. We saw the pubco's total disregard for the 2004 recommendations and began talking to each other about the inequities, abuses and excesses of the tied pub system and how it might be brought to a just end.

We talked and shared experience and brain stormed on and off for years. Frankly by the time we got the Campaign together we thought that, between us, we had a firm grasp of it all. How wrong we were!

We began using pub trade forums in early 2008 and launched Fair Pint that May at the House of Commons following six months of planning and wondering how to do it. We met members of the Select Committee on our launch day and asked for the pubco model to be looked at again, considering that one 2004 recommendation was that it should be revisited to see how the pubcos had progressed. We were told that we were standing at a door that was waiting to be pushed.

The Campaign hit the front pages of the trade press that week and we were immediately dismissed by the pubcos and accused of being unrepresentative, failing publicans who would be better off if we were to spend less time blogging and more concentrating on our businesses. When we first met politicians, market analysts and trade pundits of all descriptions we were, with a few notable exceptions, treated uniformly with suspicion and caution and it was clear that the pubcos had briefed about us in advance with the picture that was painted in the trade press: insignificant; noisy; failing publicans who blame everyone else for their problems when they should instead be looking in the mirror.

We were honest and open about our experience of the tie. We did not make outrageous claims; we provided evidence to support our case. We showed that we have integrity and a deep sense of professional care for our trade and for the value of pubs as contributors to the social capital of the country. Within eighteen months the initial scepticism we encountered changed to trust and we were being asked to brief and provide consultation to many issues involving pubs and national beer supply arrangements.

Fair Pint has played a key role in the background to many of the developments that have taken place against the tie in the last three years. We have been, and remain, instrumental in providing hard unambiguous evidence that informs such groups as the APPBG, Save The Pub Group, CAMRA, FSB and others and we have coordinated evidence gathering and dissemination to the Select Committees. Fair Pint has also commissioned research and delivered expert legal opinion to many bodies with an interest in the pub industry including international market analysts.

This is Fair Pint's job; to provide facts and high quality information backed up with insight to help shape opinion and policy at national level and we have often briefed cross party politicians at all levels providing unique insight which is real, from the hand pumps behind the bar.

We have been deeply involved with RICS changing national valuation methodology for pubs. We sit on many pub industry committees and were at trade mediation, the setting up of IPC and many other initiatives have seen Fair Pint at the table. Fair Pint has credibility behind the scenes because we are publicans and we have not misled, lied to or cheated anyone; quite unlike our pubco landlords.

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