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Friday, December 14, 2012

More Bollocks from a Beer Blogger

Anti-tie brigade could learn a thing or two from beer duty campaign

 Pete Brown's opinion piece in 'the Publican's Morning Advertiser'

Pete. You should get to know more about the tie and what it's done rather than leave it alone because you find it a bit daunting. Your article serves to highlight the problem; the message itself is not unclear, it's the response to it that's fogged. And that's because the people who have to provide the evidence of its inequitous impact at every level of the pub trade - those organisations it directly and indirectly benefits - have lied, misrepesented and obscured at every turn.

Fair Pint had a straight line on the Beer Tie from its launch in early 2008 which triggered Select Committees to reconvene later that year and revisit it four more times since. That message is that tied rents are higher than free of tie and tied beer is twice the price of free of tie. That is why the majority of pubs are closing, they cannot afford to stay open CAMRA has a video about it here: http://youtu.be/tBBkfJbYaaM.

That's not complicated is it?

And the argument from the off was: the Tied Tenant Should Be No Worse Off than the Free of Tie. Each and every Select Committee got it unanimously - ask any of the MP's who sat on them. They get it. It's the Status Quo that prevents the real simple message from being repeated everywhere.

The Sun picks up on it, telephones the BBPA and says - you represent all the pubco's and the brewers - these anti tie people say that pubs are closing because of the beer tie. What do you have to say about that? And well, you know what the answer is don't you Pete? "Why it's NOT the beer tie at all. In fact the beer tie is what keeps our pubs open. It's not in our members' interests to see their tenants suffer in these hard times, in fact our members are putting £millions of support each year directly into supporting worthy tenants precisely to keep them going. No these anti tie lobbyists are a bunch of shouty lessees who don't know how to run their pubs, who don't understand the pub sector, who blame everyone else for their own shortcomings who, if they spent more time focusing on their businesses instead of blogging and attacking their pubco's about the contracts they signed freely and willingly, might be able to make a living. No, the reason pubs are under such pressure and are closing is that the market has changed and there are too many pubs to meet the needs of consumers whose expectations have moved on - they want restaurants and bars, coffee shops and food led places. Then there is the red tape that successive governments have heaped on small businesses, and business rates, beer duty and the escalator has made British beer the most expensive in Europe you know, and the supermarkets keep selling underpriced alcohol which pubs just can't compete against - that's the Chancellor's responsibility you know he never has offered any support to us at all - and we ought not to forget the severe impact the smoking ban had on the whole of the trade, we're still reeling from that and finally, the depth of this recession has taken everyone by surprise - pubs have always been very resilient to fluctuations in the economy and the kind of downturns we've seen in the past but this is just unprecedented. You see all these things and more are what's really affecting pubs so terribly and our members, in fact, are doing everything they can to support their tenants all over the country. There. By the way, there's an interesting thing coming up in a couple of weeks with Pub is the Hub - it's ten years now - what? You didn't know about it? Would you like an invitation?

On the other side of the journalistic search for the truth of the tie - A hack calls a number of lessees, thinking to themselves 'time's short on the deadline here and I've got loads of info already' and asks them if they can give evidence that the tie is the smoking gun. "Who wants to know" - I'm calling from xxxxxx "I'm not sure I can give you any of the kind of information you need" (terrified their BDM mght find out). "Oh well OK then, do you know any other tied lessees who might be able to help me out?" " err no not really anyone I can think of"... etc etc etc. This sort of thing has happened hundreds of times and when the journo hits lucky and find a tenant who feels they've got nothing lef to lose and are prepared to spill the beans; well, then it gets complicated. Then they start talking about Reasonably Efficient Operators, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, Fair Maintainable Trade, Divisible Balance, non calibrated Beer Monitoring Equipment, Weights and Measures, fines for unspecified product sales ... and it goes on and on and on and the hack gets back to their word processor, looks at their notes and thinks: 'Wow! that's a bit daunting, I'm not an investigative journalist, the stuff I got from the BBPA is pretty clear. I'll go with that and leave that mess of other stuff for someone else to sort out'.

The fact that the simple, truthful, message has not been picked up, even by people whose business is beer and pubs - like you, Roger Protz and many other beer writers (who to my knowledge have been approached to cover the tie but have declined), is in itself a reflection that everyone is victim of the much louder widespread deliberate messages of deflection, distraction, obfuscation, white noise and diversion by the BBPA, the pubco's, the 'family brewers' and the big hitters in the beer and pub industry whose interests lie in maintaining the lie that the tie actually saves pubs and all the industry's ailments are the result of external forces they - BBPA, the poor pubco's, family brewers et al - are powerless to defend themselves against.

The contemporary Beer Tie is a massive, all industry collusive scam. It is THE Great British Pubco Scam and the whole of the establishment is up to its neck in it one way or another because feeding off it keeps them all going. It's been perverted from the original construct as a discrete business agreement between brewer and publican with each benefiting roundly by a significant symbiosis to being an out and out opportunity for private equity driven corporates to rapaciously fleece a fat sleepy old industry, bulging with masses of undervalued property, and have a free lunch asset stripping it to the bone for a couple of decades under the radar of external scrutiny.

The beer tie's pervasive, utterly pernicious influence underpins, influences, skews and perverts every single commercial transaction in the pub sector whether tied or free, whether at the level of small independent brewer, international giants, tied pubco's free of tie pubco's, the whole of the 'independent' managed chains, mulitple operators or sole traders. The tie affects them all.

The underhand deliberate, with malice aforethought, endemic abuse of the terms of the beer tie has divided and conquered Britain's traditions and our country's cultural heritage and permanently damaged the fundamental asset base of the national pub estate.

The Beer Tie is still the Elephant in the Room of the pub industry - and your article just goes to prove it.

23 comments:

  1. I've had correspondence with Pete Brown before. And several other beer bloggers - they won't touch the tie with a bargepole because it's too much like real hard work - they'd have to actually do some thinking and fact checking instead of free flow writing about how their emotions and tastebuds respond to that nice looking frothy blonde lolling around in the glass in of them and, after that anyway, if they did get round to doing a good hard hitting piece that got published they would be excluded from the industry shindigs that are their bread and butter.

    THEY are all part of the edifice that keeps the beer tie eating away at our pubs and heritage.

    It's a crime.

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  2. If I want a coffee I go to a coffee shop. Food? A restaurant, and I do, regularly. For an honest pint I want an honest pub, not a former ale house forced to sell meals to make ends meet, a proper pub. My choices are limited in whichever town or city I happen to be in, its a national problem and a problem I won't contribute to any more. Its the landlord who deserves the lions share of the profit from their toils, not the pubcos.

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  3. Kind of proves the point I was making.

    No , not kind of. Totally.

    Point me in the direction of the kind of factual information I specifically suggested you provide ok my piece and I will campaign on your behalf.

    Carry on foaming at the mouth with conspiracy theories, jumping down the throat of any curious but neutral writer who tentatively approaches you, and you'll carry on shouting at yourselves in an empty room.

    I was trying to engage

    For fuck's sake, guys, get a grip. And some anger management lessons. The main reason I haven't written about the tie before was the last time a mate of mine who did do received phone calls threatening him with physical violence. This response isn't quite that bad, but it hardly encourages me to explore the arguments any further does it?

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  4. Pete, thanks for coming back on this - my apologies, I can't respond fully yet, other business is distracting at the moment (childcare!) I'll return as soon as I'm able, in the meantime please consider the huge amount of tied lessees' evidence given to four Select Committees which convinced the MP's all, unanimously, that serious wrongdoing is afoot among our pubco's.

    Greg Mulholland is one of the best informed people in the UK who's obejective and has no personal axe to grind against the edifice - he just believes in the value of pubs, and good ale, to communities everywhere and circumstances led him to see what's been going on, which in turn, led him to become a champion for tied publicans everywhere.

    For the moment. Thanks again.

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  5. Hello Pete (& Mark) - I have run freehouses for over 12 years now & until I made the effort to find out about how lessees were treated by pubcos I thought that 'they signed the lease, their problem'. Now I know better, and I have to admit to shedding many tears when I have heard about how lessees are treated - this business is tough enough having to deal with these bullies.
    And I agree the emotion and anger clouds the issues and makes it difficult to see the bare facts, but maybe these guys need to be cut some slack - none of us come into this business thinking we will work the hours we do to end up losing our livelihoods, our homes & be made bankrupt, but unfortunately this is happening time and time again.
    That this is allowed to happen, that good licensees are being forced to leave the industry with their pubs staying closed up or being turned into yet more Tescos, is an absolute disgrace. I am sure there are many ex lessees out there, including Mark, who would be happy to spend some time rationally letting you know the facts.
    As I have said, the anger is not helpful, but from what I have heard and read, it really is understandable.

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  6. There is a lot of anger out there and you are right Pete - it does need to be managed. However one might consider that the reason you metaphorically "draw aside your skirts" around this problem is that the vast majority of the victims of the industry are not PRs, or spin specialists able to express their issues in tweets and soundbites it is hard for them to present their case in a way that ordinary folk can understand. Some of the things that go on are so unbelievable that even when you have worked it out they explanation.
    The people who are drawn to this trade are ordinary - no often extraordinary people - drawn to a dedicated profession that requires a rare combination of skills in both business and people, and which in the current economy appears to have every man’s hand turned against it.
    There are a huge number of issues in this business, not all or even many of which can be laid at the door of “incompetent operators” – get engaged with this issue and one of the things you will need to try and understand is the concept of a “Competant Operator” – like many things in this trade it does not mean what the words seem to mean.
    The protests may sound like cacophony to you and to be honest sometimes they do to me, where they get discussed on the bulletin boards and in social media the stories are very similar but surprisingly in the closed areas the discussion is mostly business like quiet and purposeful with people presenting issues or ideas and others contributing and developing.
    In the MA space that you have access to there is a wholly different tone where a very few people who are persistent almost “professional posters” destroy the coherence of any debate and apparently are dedicated to forcing the conversation into cacophony. When anything remotely interesting starts to be discussed the threads are immediately swamped by bickering between several “usual suspects” I am sure you know who they are and may even know why they do it.
    That said the real issue remains and just because you have not yet “got your head round it” does not mean it is unworthy of attention. Yes it needs help in prioritising and communicating and any assistance offered in this direction would be very welcome.
    The simple “overview” is that the “Great British Pub” which is a strange and unique concept deeply embedded in our culture and which has evolved over many years is under threat. The fact that the Pub is unique and is the envy of the world – it is the only thing the ex-prime minister of France wanted to export from Britain. Means that we should pay it some attention. The it has been attempted but the “British Pub” cannot be recreated elsewhere, the “Irish Pub” similarly is unique to Ireland.
    So what is the matter?
    There are many threads in the answer to the question some have become obsessions with some and hence they begin to sound shouty and turn folk off – sometimes I wonder whose side they are really on.
    Some of the issues are around rescuing families trapped in the industry at present and others are about ensuring not one single new family becomes ensnared – unfortunately focussing on one issue will inevitably disadvantage the other so a balance must be achieved. I could go on – but will not at present as the limit of 4096 characters looms – this is a very big and complicated problem but in summary.
    The unique and Great British Pub should never have been allowed to get like this and we now have a decision to make – are we going to let it die because we can’t be bothered to try to understand its complexity – or are we going to try to do something about it.
    If the latter then we need to recruit communicators from the mainstream - we hope you might apply.

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  7. Pete, I've had a moment to look up some evidence recently put to pubco/tenant Select Committees.

    Here's some links, very current, from 2012.

    Fair Pint: http://db.tt/s2b63VxJ

    IPC: http://db.tt/pb13iXAn

    Steve Corbett: http://db.tt/KZwcHd8d

    And for the time being, the evidence I submitted to Select Committee last summer before I was evicted from my pub of 16 years, the Sun and Doves in Camberwell, London: http://www.sunanddoves.co.uk/

    Pub Companies - Business, Innovation and Skills Committee. Written evidence submitted by J Mark Dodds 21 June 2011:

    http://bit.ly/T0dojZ

    This is what is happening Pete. And it's grim.

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  8. So What Happened?
    Well the government meddled with the industry because it was an affront that as Breweries grew the range of beers available at retail outlets was very restricted, more choice was required. The answer was the Beer Orders which hoped to create a big bourgeois market of freehouses trading with independent breweries.
    This eminently Thatcherite inititative fell afoul of the “Loadsamoney” culture another child of Thatcher and the beer orders created an opportunity for fast moving venture capitalists to swoop in, fire off some financial pyrotechnics that dazzled everyone, trouser a huge profit and bale. Leaving an industry puzzled, bruised and wondering what happened. We are now dealing with the aftermath which because the basic vehicles that created the problem and sucked all the value out of the industry still exist in a zombie like form, the resolution is still in its formative stages.
    One might ask who was fooled, who was ripped off? Strangely the answer is the people who loaned the money to the PubCos to buy all their pubs. There was no point is trying to mug every single landlord of 25,000 pubs –this was far too much like hard work. Far better take a corruptible property valuation methodology called “Value in Use” promoted by the dozy RICS which meant if you buy two pubs you can increase the apparent valuation of the property by enough to get a third for nothing. (This is one area you might consider investigating) Next you use complicated financial securitisations to create a monster sub-prime mortgage and flog it to the banks and insurance companies who because they are “index tracking” have to buy your junk while everyone is bigging you up as the “Darling of the City” – When the time comes you exit leaving an unholy mess behind you.
    This took about 5 years in which time long lasting contractual arrangements between PubCos and the tenant were established that simply cannot be delivered. The cheap way of resolving this is to engage both lawyers and spin doctors to rewrite history and establish a new truth. “That it was not the bondholders who were duped into buying junk debt” it was “the leaseholders who actually agreed to stupid contractual arrangements that was never going to result in a successful business” so any amount of moaning now must be discredited because they “signed the contract”. Archives exist of the way these leases were sold in the early days but funding does not yet exist to challenge them in court. (Another area you might consider investigating).
    All of these issues and many more are fully documented in the parliamentary archives of four select committee enquiries – it is just not presented in a coherent way.
    So now in dealing with the aftermath we have two or more zombie companies that used to stand astride the FTSE 100 now reduced to penny shares and trying to deal with their situation. Any sort of future for these companies with their £1million CEO packages is going to need another new reality to be invented, possibly where it is the government taxation burden that is the problem – it is always a good idea to take your flakiest feature and sell it really hard as an asset, so nobody sees the flaws.
    The new reality requires a new approach with new leases and new operators. However we have the slight embarrassment of a vast estate of operators on the old leases still there and hanging on grimly and the contrast between the terms of trade for the existing operators vs the longer term partners is another area worthy of a little gentle prodding.
    I could go on – but will not at present as this is all 4096 charaters allows – this is a very big and complicated problem but in summary.
    The Great British Pub has no business being involved in all this financial engineering, it should never have been allowed to get involved in this and we now have a decision to make – are we going to let it die because we can’t be bothered to try to understand its complexity – or are we going to try to do something about it.
    If the latter then we need to recruit communicators - we hope you might apply.

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  9. This is an interesting one: A bunch of people want to offer some of their experience but want to be anonymous. And there are some practical problems with people posting their experience here:

    1) Practical issue No1 is that if you don't have a google or blogger account you can't post without setting one up. This has put some people off.

    2) No2 the very act of trying to post a response post is proving difficult and some people who are struggling to make make their comment publish - and then there's no way to edit the post once it's up and this puts people off too.

    3) Finally and Understandably a few people have refused to get involved at all because they fear their freeholder being able to identify them.

    This is always a problem, so I've offered to post their comments, verbatim save for a few spelling and punctuation corrections I mad for clarification. I think any one of them will be prepared to be approached by you, Pete Brown, but only in person or by via private untraceable email. I have their contact details. Here they are:

    Hiya,

    As a consequence of putting all our life savings into our leased pub, 2.5 years of extremely hard graft and torment, we are now bankrupt, what good can ever come of it? I've told numerous "important people" to no avail. I would love to see these people brought out and named and shamed. My solicitor couldn't find a way to bring these people to justice; beginning with the ex- owner of the lease - who stated that the pub's profits were £50 grand a year. We were never in profit, the bastxxrd BRM said it was entirely our fault, regardless that we entered the pub in July 2008, the beginning of one of the worst recessions in history. What do we do? £200,000.00 down... Punch saw us coming.

    No one listens no one cares.

    What are we supposed to do?

    Debs

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  10. That's another one: 'Your HTML cannot be accepted: Must be at most 4,096 characters'

    My name is ****** ********* and my experience of my time with a pubco is a difficult one to tell;

    As regulars in what always seemed a busy pub run by a husband and wife team who were, or so it appeared, to be in complete control of their business, we thought it would be a good investment to add to our other interests and paid more or less the asking price.

    Being told that the lease was an original whitbread lease - and they we the best ones to have - we agreed to go ahead with enterprise inns who were the new landlords of our lease! The building was in a dilapidated state and the list of jobs needed to be done was washed over as it was clear they wanted the current incumbents out as they were too clever to be bullied by the pubco.

    The day of handover was a taster of what was to become of our relationship with enterprise. Before the sign over could take place an 'agreement' was produced by the area manager for a tie with the gaming and pool table supplier. This was never mentioned before the day of signing or given to our solicitor but sprung upon us as the removal men arrived.

    It took me eight years to get out of the pub and every penny invested was lost and I was up to my ears in debt which I am still paying off some two years later. They are corporate bullies who scoff at anyone who stands up to them with an arrogance i have never experienced in my whole working life. They operate a duel pricing policy with all their tenants - no two tenants receive the same discounts - and they encourage competition between local sites by way of sneaky deals that are confidential, and so the fear of loss stops tenants getting together to stand up to them. The one time we had a chance of selling the lease we asked if enterprise would produce all conditions for the sale to go through and the reply was 'no' because they would want to change the terms - so making our lease worthless, as their solicitor pointed out "don't get involved with that company their leases are slave labour".

    Price increase after price increase made competing with other non enterprise inns sites impossible. We were a wet sales led pub and if we applied the normal margin to our tied products we would have been empty of customers. So we sell product at little margin and hope we can make it up out of non tied products. Our rent was £3,788.00 per month including insurance, which they charged for but never had they self insure and won't let anyone claim without paying a massive excess upfront (not mentioned in the lease).

    To say the policy of squeeze the tenants and squeeze them again at every aspect of their turnover was and still is a big part of their revenue stream. For instance fining tenants for breach of tie. I thought to fine someone you had to be a judge or magistrate, it was an example of how enterprise believed they were not only above the law but in fact they were the law and legislators of it!

    To make pubco's become a useful business for the pub industry is not going to happen until they are transparent in their leases. Had we been told that they have the right to charge as much as they like over the open market price for tied products (in excess of 130% more on a lot of products) or that the rent can only go up, or that they will sue us if we don't comply to all their made up rules that they try to make you comply to, we would have run a mile.

    Continued ...

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  11. The jackboots of these companies have to be stopped from trampling on people, good people, who work tirelessly for no reward other than a roof over their heads - and one that leaks at that. We also know that the pubco's are stalling. They stalled to wait for the election for two years prior to it and stalled after it because some of the pubco's had split its sites. They are above the law and laugh at all the agreed changes from the sub committee I.e.. In the formula for working out fair rents they are refusing to take into account the tenant's wage, even at min wage basis.

    The MP who thinks he or she is dealing with honourable, normal businessmen and women is going to get toed up the rear by carrions who don't think the promises given to them mean a thing.

    Stop kidding yourselves on the sub committees you can't help. You're powerless - your recommendations are treated as just that and scoffed at by the heads of these mafias called pubco's. They won't change, even if you bring in a law, they wont change. The only thing that will stop them is to ban the tie or cartel in line with Europe. These people are bigger than anything you and your efforts can change; they have proved that by way of the loop holes their expensive barristers have found and will keep finding.

    I ask parliament not to be made to look like lambs to the slaughter once again and recommend an end to the tie. They will have to treat the tenants as partners then. Not just as more victims for them to prey on. Thank you for reading this i am no longer in the pub trade but still bear the scars and genuinely feel for the poor wretches who get sucked in by the pubco's p r machines

    good luck PJM

    Manchester

    Hiya,

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  12. Hi.... I am still at my pub. I will have been here 10 yrs last month but only due to working BY MYSELF, doing everything to keep a roof over my head, and have not had a wage for well over 4 yrs now!

    My landlord gave me free of tie on some products but the breweries will not discount now like they used to for free of tie more so Heineken and the money I have put through their tills in my first years here when I was tied was unbelievable!

    I have just changed my lease from 8 yrs to 5 as I have had Cancer over past year. Free of it now but I was 60 on Diamond Jubilee and have had a change of mind. I just want to get out of this work now as it is just slave labour. Hope your Campaign goes well. Regards WF Peterborough

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  13. Thanks for the message

    We are still in our pub, through careful cash management, and staff reduction etc. The 2 of us work all shifts, no time off and nothing to show for it. Yet a little little at the end of the tunnel. After fighting for 5 years saying our rent was too high, Marston's conceded and from paying £700 per week rent we now pay £300, but the fight to go on as we think the past 5 years we have paid in excess to what the business was worth, but Parliament will not take that into consideration.

    Fair pint??????? It will cost us an extra £22,000.00 a year to become free of tie. But we also have the problem of Marston's, there are 5 Marston's pubs in this Market town, 3 have gone to retail agreement, undercutting us on beer pricing, as well as food, causing us to lose customers, yet Marston's want their "cake" still.

    We reckon by just next year we will be out of the business and on the unemployment register

    Quick note as well talking re benefits, most pub co tenants might think they are not allowed benefits as "working tax credits etc", I checked this out. Us here are entitled to around £102 per week. I think time to claim it, if government don't do something soon

    Please hand a copy of this to Mr. Greg Mulholland, to use as an example.

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  14. Dear Pete.

    Read the select committee reports.

    Google Angelique Elliot and Paul Lee. Don't be lazy.

    This isn't me threatening you with physical violence, this is me telling you to open your eyes, investigate, and do your job.

    There is plenty of this info out there, don't demand it comes to you, that isn't how it works. Kind regards,

    Stephen Slatter/professional libel-er/non google mail account holder.

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  15. THIS IS J MARK DODDS POSTING - copy of post on Pete Brown's article on the PMA site linked to above.

    Paul C has been level and clear and unemotional and even then the deniers nit pick with his presentation of the reality - based directly on his experience as tied publican.

    People who uphold the status quo, apart from not being tied publicans, or even publicans for that matter, are deniers of the blunt reality that is writ large across the UK. Pubs that are not part of chains and groups like M&B, Wetherspoons et al are failing everywhere. That's not anyone's imagination - it's utterly obvious to anyone who can open their eyes and walk down pretty much any street in Britain. It's even happening in Kensington and Chelsea. Nowhere has escaped the pernicious meddling of the tied pubcos.

    Quite simply our pub sector has been eagerly asset stripped by private equity and it's been aided and abetted by thousands of hangers on, agents, surveyors and other bottom feeders in the food chain which has thrived on dead, dying, churning, failing and falling into non pub use pubs. The majority of these pubs - and no one can seriously be in denial about this because the figures are out there published by IPPR - have at some time in the last twenty five years been tied pubco owned. The pubco's have churned tenants through the pubs and then churned the pubs through to other pubco's down the line whov'e churned more tenants through them and so on until the pubs are so run down that no one will touch them at which point they are put out for disposal to private developers for whatever kind of recycling they can get out of the bricks and mortar.

    That this whole issue drags on at the same level of 'debate' in pages like these, for so many years, is difficult to get to grips with considering the findings of one rigorous Select Committee after another, and another, unanimously recommend statutory action against pubcos time and again only to be ignored by government in thrall to the tune of BBPA and Family Brewers telling policy wonks that the future of the British pub will fall into even more rapid decline if the tie is touched or legislated against... The lie is STILL that the tie and the pubco's somehow actually protect pubs from failure when the opposite is so patently the case.

    Exactly the same points were being made by the deniers five years ago on the MA forum and all that's happened is that thousands more pubs have gone forever. It is the status quo that has given us a nation of Tesco Locals and boarded up pubs with god knows how many more under TAW, 'temporary management', 'holding companies' and all that without even pausing to consider the rate of continuing churn.

    After all this - and it's been asked many times before and never answered - just WHERE are all these satisfied tied tenants?

    They don't exist. It's a scam.

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  16. This is a post from today on a closed Facebook group:

    As someone relatively new to the trade some things have become clear:

    People are unwilling to put their heads above the parapet for fear of retribution, many are working in isolation feeling they are alone in their problems and are unaware of the issues facing others.

    Most seem unaware of any groups like this and are too busy trying to survive to participate. Some means of drawing them in whilst affording anonymity is needed. The Pubcos et al demand proof. One reason for this is simple; a leaseholder can be identified as a trouble maker and dealt with. Another reason is those who make the most noise can be identified as failed bitter ex publicans with a chip on their shoulder. Either way they need do nothing more than say "not our fault, look at all these opportunities / training / advice/ bs we provide our tenants. Its a tough world and unfortunately some aren't cut out for it"

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  17. "PLEASE SIGN HERE: just a formality; it's a note confirming that you took legal advice before signing all of the documents you are about to sign. What? You did get advice but your solicitor said 'no one would ever sign anything a pubco puts in front of them if they took their solicitor's advice but something must be working because there's thousands of pubs out there being run by people who did sign. They can't all be wrong can they?'. Right. In that case please sign this bit that states 'I chose not to take legal advice before signing'. Thanks that's great.

    Now then; please sign these Personal Guarantee forms. Great, thanks. What next? Oh yes... Please sign these direct debit mandate forms. Of course everything is protected by the Direct Debit Guarantee scheme, it's great that isn't it? Everyone's protected when they sign DD's. Now, please sign this form agreeing that you will pay for all your own training. Ah. Yes. Oops. You have got your Personal License haven't you? I was so excited when you showed me your proof of finance I forgot to ask you about that. Well, can you just sign this bit here confirming that you passed the qualification. Thanks. Thanks. Great. Now what else is there. Oh yes. The Keys.

    Here's the Keys. Right. Thanks. Good luck with it all. Oh, by the way; I suppose I'll see you in court sometime soon eh?"

    That's all pretty transparent isn't it.

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  18. Ok here is a thought - some will tell you the problem is the smoking ban; all kinds of tales about EURO MPs managing three days of smoking ban before they exempted themselves, the French just ignore it anyway etc.. etc..

    OK - Fine I think many now accept that smoking is bad for you and if you choose to smoke that is your affair, also inflicting smoke on others is dirty smelly and potentially harmful as well.

    Believe me I am an ex smoker and am very pleased to be - I also love the smoke free environment in my pub - I hate the smelly piles of butts outside the door and one-day inspiration will strike as to how to sweeten up that problem.

    But:

    and it is a big one - I did a survey of my customers and 75% of them smoked - dig a bit further and of that 75%, 75% only smoked in the pub, not at home, not at work, pint and fag that was the great British way to relax after a hard days work.

    WE were promised that there would be flood of new eaters and drinkers coming to the pub after the ban - where were they? It seems that those without the smoking vice lack the drinking vice as well.

    Some pubs have been massively damaged by the smoking ban some people have been bankrupted I guess, so where was the transitional policy the soft landing, the assistance, lots of advice on "Smoking solutions" but all to be funded out of non existent pub profits.

    I applaud the smoking ban and am glad it came in but in no other industry I am aware of has a massive piece of legislation like that been brought in and layered on top of a business model with no compensation.

    In my rent review one year prior to the smoking Ban I was told categorically by my pub-co that the "REO" would not factor the "smoking ban into his rent bid". (I regard this REO as a dangerous lunatic)

    AS it happened we were fine but I grieve for colleagues who had the basis of their business ripped out with no consideration of the consequences as if it was they and not BAT that was making the profits out of an unfortunate addiction.

    WE hope that this issue will not return - it is done and dusted and we are the better for it but there is some basis for the complaints of those that were damaged these need to be taken into consideration in any communications strategy - for which we need a communicator - we hope you might apply.

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  19. THIS POST FROM ANOTHER TIED TENANT FROM A CLOSED SITE ON FACEBOOK WHO WANTS TO STAY ANONYMOUS

    Where to start? We are a 100% tied pub with one of the major Pubco’s. We have been in this pun for 2 years having brought an assigned lease, with seven years of it still to run.

    I was brought up in the trade and at eighteen was a relief manager for a major brewery company. At the age of twenty one I took a different career course and joined the forces. After twelve years in the forces I started to think about what I would do when I eventually decided to leave. I decided to go on a licensed trade course. I passed the course and over the next ten years I volunteered to look after military bars, to keep up with new legislation and also to make sure that I knew exactly how everything worked. At the end of my military career I did the same course I had done ten years beforehand (I was the first ever person to take the course as a refresher).

    We had decided that we would enter the pub world three years before my discharge date, and spent this time visiting potential pubs from as far a field as Cornwall to York. We had interviews with numerous breweries and Pubco’s and were accepted by them all.

    We thought long and hard about the lease over tenancy argument but in the end decided to accept the deal we are on (bad mistake number one).

    We were shown figures but not everything was detailed, In ways we are very lucky, a small pub and the rates are very good. The rent is not so good. Our accountant thinks we are paying about 30% to much, we argued that at our rent review and in the end the rent was put up by only the RPI, after a 10K investment (if you add that up with what we are paying it equates to us paying for the investment). Forget the fact that we could have got the work done for at least half that amount. The pub has got sub standard three bedroom accommodation, we had to completely gut and redecorate it and are still having problems with damp and boiler problems. We had to fit a fire door as there was not one. I feel that on the whole I can live with the rent if we were allowed more leverage on other matters.

    As I said we are 100% tied on all products and also Fruit Machines. We have never and would never buy out of tie, but one thing that really got me was that we were tricked into buying SIBA local ale. Fantastic I thought, get a real ale in from our area (in fact three miles down the road), the customers loved it and I loved selling it! even if it was costing me a arm and a leg, especially when we could buy it direct for 40% less! I then found out it would not show up on my barrelage details (which would effect the price we could get for the place if we sold it). At this time I also found out that I could buy a Brand leading Real ale for cheaper than one of it’s own tenants could buy it.

    I had a meeting with our BDM last week and he basically stated that we should have let the previous lease holders go bust before taking this place on, as we could have gone for their BOGOF deal on real ales. This might sound silly but I have four real ale lines and if two of them had been free of tie for our two years, we would be very comfortable. As it is we are here but for how much longer I dare not guess, as every single penny counts and one bad week will send us out of business. I have even asked to go free of tie on the fruit machine as that would be enough for us to survive on (we are talking no more than £200 per month). I am working 110 hours a week, last year we broke even!

    If just one line was free of tie that would mean the world to us and would allow this place to stay a hub of the community.

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  20. THIS IS BY MARK DODDS.

    After I was evicted from my pub in September 2011 Scottish & Newcastle called the police a couple of times to report a crime - the accused ME of stealing from them as I was leaving the pub. Items they specified verbally that I had taken were the beer fonts and the banquette and booth seating. All happen to be F&F that were owned by a lease hire company I rented them from, all items on an inventory which S&NPC had in their possession somewhere - since they had asked for detailed breakdown of my business circumstances during rent negotiations and I'd given them itemised copies of my own inventory. Besides that S&NPC, having got a repossession order from Lambeth Court, had spoken face to face with the owner of the F&F and asked her how much she wanted for the whole interior of the pub and she told them £40K. They hummed and ahhed and said they would get a valuation done. Which they did, the Friday before the eviction was due. The valuer didn't come back with a figure by the following Tuesday - the deadline for clearing out the pub. She warned them, with the one of managers present, that if she had not been paid, had a bank transfer or BACS by the Tuesday she would arrange to completely remove every item on the inventory to storage. Apart from that she called the area manager, I called the area manager over the weekend and left messages reminding him of all of this; and again on the Monday and the Tuesday, and he did not respond.

    So everything was removed as promised.

    Below is the letter I wrote to S&NPC following the police interviewing me TWICE after the pubco had reported theft and criminal damage at the pub - and accused me of being the perpetrator.

    TRUTH is the only vandals at that pub were the pubco.

    http://anotherdayanotherdollar.blogspot.co.uk/2011/10/23-september-2011-from-mark-dodds.html

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  21. THIS FROM ANOTHER LESSEE WHO'S CONCERNED ABOUT THEIR ANONYMITY

    Hello Pete,

    Where do we start?

    Well, how about with a plea for you to go on a pub crawl, not so hard for a beer man surely? Pubs are the real home of beer not supermarket shelves, surely you must agree? A great pint, pulled by a professional Publican from a well cared for cellar in the warmth of good conversation & company in a well loved pub... perfection! And we are losing it... QUICKLY! Please go & speak with the Publicans that you want evidence from, if we know you come in peace & with an open mind then I feel many of us would be pleased to share with you & give you the information & inspiration to dig deeper.

    Having read your comments on Mark's blog, can I please address the 'stupid, angry Publican thing'... By the time you get to us or we get to you, many of us have suffered unbelievable degradation & loss, let alone in the financial manner. Personally I have been battling against the unfair, infeasible & unfounded demands of my PubCo for over 5 yrs & it's really wearing having to second guess & out-manouver your 'business partner' for that long as well as work 70+ish hours p/w, raise a family & keep the bailiffs away from the door.

    Also, just to dispel the theory that we suffer from lack of education & don't know what we are doing & that's why our pubs fail, both myself & my husband are degree educated with professional back-grounds in finance & training. All I ask is that you give us a little understanding as we are not all angry, if you met me I'd be more likely to sob than shout!

    On with the story, as I currently am unable to give clear details of myself or situation for fear of (PubCo) retribution, I hope you would give me the benefit of doubt in the reading of this piece; If you were to go on this Pub crawl as I have suggested, there are some things that I think, from my 20+years as a Publican, you may find common themes within the tied estates (both PubCo. & Family Brewer) for example:

    A) Many Publicans may say that they pay over-inflated beer prices &, if fully tied, soft-drinks, wines & spirits as well. Many are part of companies with large buying power that demand huge discounts & question why there are no benefits to them at the sharp end? Why do their 'business partners' not pass on this benefit to encourage lower & more competitive pricing in small answer to the supermarkets? Why does the demand for beer drop in pubs, while the prices drop in supermarkets and tied Publicans are charged constantly more every year, without fail, through price increases from PubCo's?

    B) Possibly a story that may have found its way to your ears from the 'establishment' is that 'they know what they signed', therefore giving some curious form of reason to the continual misuse of the lease to the detriment of the Publican.

    Continued ...

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  22. On your journey through the wonderful world of the Pub you might be asked to consider this; When a Publican takes a lease/TAW/assignment who is it that gives you the information to ensure that you are given clarity & all you need to make a balanced & informed decision? Which organisation do we have to approach to give us a checklist of PubCo obligations? It is probable you will hear of no paperwork given or solicitors/surveyors recommended by the PubCo's? Until the formation of The Pubs Advisory Service recently, by well informed, experienced & educated Publicans, new people coming into the trade had NADA! You may find experienced Publicans that were Let a pub at say, £56k (RPI'd), to find within 6 months that an acknowledged only £20k was feasible. How was a pub let at the £56k initially if it was so unsustainable? The PubCo might say well you paid too much for the lease or you are not an REO (reasonably efficient operator, curious undefined acronym used by RICS) but again I would have to ask: WHY let a pub at that rent? WHY allow someone to pay too much for a business when that must be a road to disaster?

    C) Dilapidations; are another prickly subject for fully-repairing Publicans. You may find that many Pubs are in a poor shape due to lack of investment, this might be even though the Publican may have put in more per year than even the PubCo expected but not enough in an estate that has been stripped & underinvested in for years, the downside of not allowing a fair return for your Lessees.

    D) Have you heard of FMT? fair & maintainable trade is another curiously undefined thing that is used. I might suggest you could come across Publicans that think that their FMT has nothing to do with the actual figures that they produce in their pub... & sadly they would be right, as FMT is based on the operation of a REO (there's that acronym again) which may contain huge growth figures against a backdrop of a country & industry in decline. And as has been documented to contain increases such as those that have been through the PICAS service! £80k asked for £37k settled on!

    E) As you work your way around this long & chatty pub crawl you may have the odd Publican suggest to you that the balance of risk & reward that BISC were so keen on will always struggle to occur when every year we are subject to RPI rent increases. Just for clarity, irrespective of the finances of a pub, EVERY year the rent increases at the rate of RPI. This means over the usual 5 yearly cycle that the Publican must increase their take by RPI just to stay on the level. Fair & Maintainable...!?!

    To be honest Pete, these are only a few of the reasons behind the collapse of the tied trade & I am sure your pub crawl would reveal more & different but fundamentally the are some big things wrong with the tie just like 4 reports found & it is killing my beloved profession. PLEASE look more deeply into this, I do not even need to try & persuade you to my point of view as if you use your skills as an investigative journalist then the weight of fact will speak for itself.

    One last point: when are have found enough evidence to entice your Journo's nose to sniff out more, there are many, many more layers to this story & it is as complicated you think, in a very tangled web they weave kind-of-way...

    Yours

    Cracked but not Broken.

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