Monday, December 16, 2013

A Real Publican Responds to a Real Beer Blogger's Bollocks

ZYTHOPHILE, or in the real world Martyn Cornell, had the grace to respond below to one of my comments on his blog which I copied in here as my own reference. The response windows on these blogs allow entries of 4,093 characters. My response was longer than that by about 3,000 characters. So here it is in full.

By the way a Zythophile is a lover of beer. Use of this word as nom de plume offers insight into what Martyn thinks of himself

This is how I replied to him:

Martyn this is free form off the cuff, excuse me if I don't get to the point. I cannot be bothered to temper myself any more, I've had enough of  being polite to people who are amateurs in the pub sector yet so full of themselves they think they know more about the pub sector than the people for whom the pub sector is their world, their profession, their lives, their air and water. I first met people like you when I was behind the bar – people who tell publicans how to run their business. Then I met people like you in parliament and all over the place in my work campaigning to change the status quo. And what characterises them all is that none of them has ever worked in a pub but they know more than any publican about the publican's job. It's bollocks. I've had enough of being patient with people who REALLY don't know what they are talking about who keep telling me, and many professional publicans like me, that WE are the ones who don't know what WE are talking about. It's palpable nonsense that you are blind to.

You are arrogant, patronising, blinkered and myopic, you hear your own voices and those of the people who sit behind desks in pubco headquarters whose actions have been ruining the pub sector for decades, you believe their lies and mistruths and inventions and never ask the publicans who are making the whole industry work, as far as that goes, what is really happening at the chalk face and you are apparently insensitive to the possibility that the majority of people who are oppressed do not advocate for themselves but go to the wall in silence and shame rather than admit they made a dreadful mistake in falling for the misrepresentation and by signing a tied lease.

How many pubs have you run? How many people have you employed in the pub sector? How many pints have you pulled? How many glasses have you collected? How many hundreds of hours have you spent talking to tied publicans? How many  times have you been to parliament delivering evidence of endemic abuse of the beer tie to MP's? How many times have you stood up to a six foot four twenty stone bailiff the pubco sent in to your pub, without any warning, demanding rent, damages and their own £800 fees, THEY didn't claim by Direct Debit because THEY made a total cock up of their administration? How many times have you written to a CEO of a pubco telling them of this kind of abuse on the ground only to be completely ignored until finally it filters down to the region and the Regional Manager comes around and threaten you not to do that again because 'it makes my team look like a right bunch of cunts'? How many times have you had a rent review where the pubco tries to DOUBLE it and it costs you tens of thousands defending the review? How many times have you owned a tied lease for the best part of twenty years and seen your margins erode by 5%-10% as the pubco incrementally shifts the profits away from the tenant into their debt payments through unwarranted wholesale price increases?

Martyn YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU ARE TALKING or WRITING ABOUT and I really cannot be bothered to help you any more. It seemed for a moment you were offering to meet someone to have a chat about it? Nothing happened. You're not interested, you're a denier, a make believer, a fantasist. You seem to think the world of capitalism is some pure economic market corrected snow white driven thing that arrives at the right answers for consumers through an immutable balance of supply and demand that's ordained by what? The atoms of the universe as dispersed by the gods of the pubco's. RUBBISH. The tied pub sector is an unregulated morass of medieval malpractice that's decimated Britain's traditions and heritage already. Naysayers like you fuel it and keep the status quo smouldering when the pubco's should have been extinguished long ago. I'd bet You probably think the beer tie is a good thing. A lovely old British tradition. Well it's not, it's a tool for abusing people's human rights.

The pub industry was fat slack and lazy before the slick securitisation and debt merchants came along to modernise it after the beer orders opened the door into the sleepy pubs playground. All these people did, these wine drinking white collar bankers, accountants and money market casino chancers, was chuck vast amounts of other people's money into buying buildings at stupid prices, creating a spiral of pub inflation, that had anachronistic legally binding supply ties attached that potentially offering an eternal, limitless, guaranteed income stream that stretched far into the future which they saw they could manipulate to screw every last drop of profit out of the estates to pay down the debt, skim a load off the top for themselves before scooting off into the Med with a few tens of £ millions in their underpants to go and buy islands and yachts with, leaving everyone else to mop up the mess down the time line of pub history. That is the Great British Pubco Scam and people like you - and there's plenty of you, lazy sofa lounging beer bloggers who call themselves 'EXPERTS' who've shored up the lie for the last two decades.

You pontificate from your positions of pomp at the high table of the pub industry - and no doubt get invited to plenty of shindigs and promos while the people who earn ALL the money that pays for ALL of those shindigs are behind the jump working their bollocks off to pay the rent, the debts they raised to improve their own pub business and to pay the pubco's double open market prices for supplies AND the interest payments on their pubco;s debts and the £500K a year salaries of the execs who are turning the pub sector into a wasteland in the name of progress, cartels and crony capitalism. The real hands on publicans are the last people whom people like you can be bothered to talk to openly and honestly about what is happening to them. You prefer to tell them what's happening from your filtered vision and when they say, rather inconveniently for your world perspective: 'It's not like that'  You don't say 'Really? I'm interested, please tell me more',  You say 'prove it'. Slack.

It's simple Martyn, you never listen to the monkey, you just listen to the organ grinder talking down his oppression of the monkey: 'He loves dancing to my tune, I made him what he is'.

You describe yourselves as 'experts' yet know only the most frothy top of the issues regarding the pub sector. You see pubs closing ALL over the country and say 'it's the market' and, seriously, you haven't got a bloody clue what you are talking about. You don't even know what the market IS. You've been hoodwinked hook line and sinker. If you really cared you'd do some research. It's all in the public domain but you completely ignore the facts of the situation preferring to sit back and congratulate yourself on how superior you are. It's pathetic.

No. I'm not going to waste any more time engaging with people like you who can't be bothered to open their eyes and look around. Go get a real job, go collect some glasses in a busy tied pub and ask the owners what they think of their margins and what they think of Ted Tuppen; The Pol Pot of the Pub Sector.

I BROKE MY PROMISE - Martyn Cornell did another wind up blog

Martyn you write very well, and sincerely without wanting to flatter you. I enjoy reading your stuff a lot and particularly respect the fact that you published all the comments that came in on your incendiary piece praising the Pol Pot of the Pub Sector. Our professional experiences are very different but it's absolutely clear to me that we care for and appreciate much of the same things in pubs and in food and drink and culture in general.

I am a practical, skilled and very experienced restaurateur and worked and managed some of Manchester and London's busiest restaurants. I was GM and licensee of an iconic top end club in Mayfair in the 80's. I have worked in and run pubs too, and have had tied and free of tie leases simultaneously.  When you have the right kind of experience and know-how the trade of making pubs busy and essentially successful is not rocket science at all.  You will remain unconvinced of anything I say to the contrary of your thesis but I assure you the tied pub sector is massively compromised, inhabited by poor senior management whose vision is all about spreadsheet management and nothing to do with what makes pubs and catering businesses generally, work well. They rely on the skills and endeavour of the people who pull pints or know how to get other people to pull pints for them. My experience is my experience and what I have seen in the underbelly of the tied pub sector is shocking, dirty, outmoded. anachronistic and, as I have said before, is downright abuse and bullying - the model is dependent on raking far too much out of individual pubs' turnover - and the bottom line is that has to be the way it is or else the pubco's cannot service their irrational and completely irresponsible levels of debt.

The margins on tied leases do NOT stack up for the lessees. The lessees who survive are those whose leases are on old terms, those who've not been through rent reviews and those whose  businesses overtrade beyond pubco expectations and rent reviews have not caught up with their exceptional performance. These businesses, as with any cash business that is VERY busy, make a cash margin that can throw off huge amounts of money in all directions - the pubco wins out royally and the tenant pockets a wedge too - but the tenant's MARGIN is rubbish.

The tied pub sector is a disgrace.


  1. Nice rant. Lovely alliteration – "you pontificate from your positions of pomp at the high table of the pub industry". I wish. Good line in insults – "lazy sofa lounging beer bloggers". A bit light on history – the tied pub has been around for some 300 years, was almost universal from the 1890s onwards, and might, therefore, be actually regarded as being part of "Britain's traditions and heritage". But your main thrust – that I can't know what I'm talking about because I've never run a pub – is self-serving cock. If we're going to wave qualifications about, I've been studying, and reporting on the beer industry for more than 30 years, including covering it as part of an MBA, I have a shelf-full of reports, articles and books on the beer industry – including the latest London Economics report on the tied house, which I'm sure you've read, and which needs to be read in conjunction with the book Government Intervention in the Brewing Industry by Spicer et al. So yes, I DO know what I'm talking about, and I'm rather more able to take an unblinkered view of the industry than you do precisely because I HAVEN'T worked behind a bar. Somebody disagrees with you. Get over it.

    1. If you know so much about it why are so many tenants going broke trying to run pubs?
      I will out you now, you work for a pubco or believe in fairies swallowing everything they tell you.
      What really happens is landlords are promised work will be done when you move in then it isn't
      Two locals closed, one due to rent high, kitchen not fixed from last tenant so unable to do meals, heating bills huge due to faulty windows, two fell out in staff quarters. Beer prices higher to landlord than pub down road was selling a pint, Choice of beer? Yes, 1 regular, one guest and 2 lagers.
      Makes your story of them helping tenants into a fairy story, you are good at those it seems. Only time rep called was to try and increase rent.

      After ripping off last four tenants and doing no refurbs it closed, It was shut for two years, we made sure nobody else lost money going in, then demolished it was in such a bad state of repair.
      Better get some reading done on PMA to see how people got ripped off.

  2. ExcellIent.

    You think that London Economics drivel stands to support your paper thin position on the pub sector? It's one of the least convincing bits of tripe that's ever been published on the tied pub sector situation, riddled with supposition, unsupported opinion and alarmist hearsay promoted by the people the authors 'consulted' they being 1) Pubco's 2) ALMR (publicans whose balls are in the grip of the pubcos) 3) Academics (who are fed data by the pubco's) 4) BBPA (the pubco's Trade Association) 5) Industry 'exoert' (who like you, never worked in the industry and whose income revolves around err, the pubco's activities) altogether a convincing round up of authoritative open transparent and honest objective assessment of what will happen if regulation comes I to err - put the brakes on their collective tied pub sector playground rides.

    Did London Economics stray so far as to 'consult' a single tied publican? Any representative trade organisation of tied publicans? A consumer group concerned with the tied pub sector? A professional body representing individual tried publicans? No. They didn't.

    London. Economics LIMITED do point out in their effusive acknowledgments that 'any errors are, of course, entirely the responsibility of London Economics.'


  3. So academics are fed papers from pubcos then? I'd love to see the evidence of this. I think it is most unprofessional to cause such slander on academics.

    1. Have you actually read the report and its acknowledgements?

      Unprofessional? I'm a publican mate and I know a load of bollocks when. I read it. And Get It Right. Slander is verbal, this is written... Written is libel and there's no libel... Just passing on what the authors say in their 'report' from Pubco central. The authors are clear about their sources. . Nothing ambiguous about it at all.

  4. To update you on what's going on here's what the Select Committee think about the current situation. Some of its MP's have sat on committee through successive governments and have read through thousands of pages of submissions from both sides. Their conclusions, always unanimous, have always been to tell the pubco's they must change their behaviour and the balance of risk and reward between them and their tenants, with the clear threat of regulation coming in if they did not change and the promise that there would be a follow up inquiry to make sure that change had been implemented. It never has ... Each successive inquiry has found that the pubco's have not materially changed their behaviour and so each inquiry's findings have been more damning than the previous one. This merry go round has been going on for a decade. The pubco's have done nothing other than prevaricate and fiddle in public domain with rewriting codes of practice and obfuscating, with pubco CEO's presenting false evidence at committee hearings and subsequently apologising to the MP's they lied to but changing nothing. which leads us to today. Nothing has happened... So when Business Innovation and Skills say to the Select Committee - please have a look at the consultation and come back to us with a report this is what the committee has to say: NO.

    BIS Committee refuses to reopen pub companies inquiry and urges Vince Cable to get on with introducing statutory code

    On Friday the BIS Department published the responses to its consultation on a Statutory Code of Conduct for pub companies. The Department asked the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee for its views in light of the published responses.

    In a letter to the Secretary of State, Adrian Bailey MP, Chair of the BIS Committee, makes clear that the Committee will not be reopening its inquiry into pubs and urges the Government to stop delaying and bring forward a Bill.

    Commenting on the letter, Adrian Bailey MP said:

    “We gave our views in our July 2013 Report–the latest in a long series of Reports on this matter–in which we called on the Government to bring forward legislation without delay. Asking the Committee for its views on the evidence appears to be just the sort of delay we warned against.

    “It is for the Government to assess the evidence and legislate accordingly. However, despite the fact that it has had six months to consider the views of the industry, it has done neither.

    “If the Government continues to drag its feet there is a serious risk that there will be insufficient parliamentary time left to establish a Statutory Code. At the beginning of the Parliament, the Secretary of State gave us an undertaking that he would act in the interest of the pub industry. If he doesn’t do so very soon, we will end the Parliament exactly where we started. This would be an unacceptable failure. The Government must act and act now.