Tuesday, May 18, 2021

LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED, as it says on the poster,

LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED, as it says on the poster, is all very well as a sentiment. But when it comes to The Pub and what it means to us as a nation of sociable people. 4 years ago some of us from Protect Pubs went to Plunkett Foundation's More Than a Pub conference... at the Coin Street Neighbourhood Centre just a short step and a skip from the IMAX.

Was as always is with Plunkett Days, a good day.

When it comes to loving our most precious secular social asset: The Pub there's acres of gushing love written and spoken about pubs in the press, in Houses of Commons and Lords, from the Government Despatch Box but all anyone need to to understand what we really think, and feel, about our beloved pubs is to look around and see what's been going on in the 500 year history of The Pub to understand our LOVE for the pub is only skin deep. We ain't doing anything to stop the mycelium like rot that's eaten through our most valuable, irreplaceable social asset with most of our pubs in the tenure of hedge fund owned pub companies whose fruiting bodies are thousands of dead and dying pubs their appalling asset sweating business practice has sucked dry.

In the 50 years since CAMRA was founded in 1971, in part to campaign to protect pubs: 30,000 - that is THIRTY THOUSAND - purpose built pubs have closed while in the last 20 years 20,000 coffee shops have filled the function pubs would have served had the pub sector evolved, innovated, learned to stay relevant to, and ahead of, the perfectly reasonable, ever rising expectations of contemporary consumers.

We allowed our pubs to be hollowed out, watched as thousands of them were cynically bought up by hedge fund backed spivs whose business model never fails to generate profit: Invest as little as possible in the estate; get other people (publicans) to cover all the costs of owning the property while profiteering from over-priced rent and supply prices, sweat the tenants, suck all their profits out of their business, chronically starve the properties of investment, blaming the tenants for not maintaining their buildings, until the pubs are so run down they finally break when no one is mad enough to rent it and try to revive a dead pig with a 'low cost entry' so the pubco has to 'sadly' announce the pub has been causing a drain on the business which the directors cannot responsibly allow to be sustained. So 'sadly' rather than admit there's nothing left to take because they never put anything in they reluctantly decide to sell as 'no longer financially viable', possibly suitable for alternative use'. We let this happen thirty thousand times in 50 years. 10,000 of those are since 2010 by which time anyone who can put 2 and 2 together and achieve a 4 can work out there was a #GreatBritishPubcoScam going on and we are all being had BIG TIME. We're losing pubs we love and getting coffee shops we don't really want instead. And WE MISS THE PUBS! Something is well dodgy. That's because it is a scam. 'They' the hedge fund pubcos buy OUR pubs, imbued with hundreds of years of built in, unaccounted for social capital, run them down so we stop using them, making millions out of the profiteering asset sweating process, the sole intent to turn centuries of OUR priceless social capital into THEIR cash deposited in short term offshore bank accounts.

This memory of 4 years ago came up from one of the good, useful parts of the machine that is Facebook; a reminder that social media does have useful functions. Reminded me that no matter how much of a good job Plunkett does on the saving pubs front, the scale of the endemic, runaway numbers of failing pubs needs a solution that can save them in large numbers; even properly saving one hundred pubs a year would barely dent the number of permanent closures. We have, if WE LOVE THE PUB, we have to do something really radical to change everything. WE have to do it because 'the market' isn't, and will just carry on flogging off pubs they've sucked dry until there's nothing left.


The evidence suggests we don't. But that's because individually we're impotent to do something about, it's such a big problem, and campaigning doesn't work - if it did we wouldn't be watching the slow, painful end of The Pub unfurl before us like a dread shadow passing across a bad dream. But together we have enormous power. Turning failed pubs into great pubs, doing it really brilliantly is all about capital. How the capital is used. How it recycles through the business; how it's distributed and reinvested in the business. Conventional pubcos extract wherever possible without investing in the health of the businesses renting the pubs.

If we really want to show our love for pubs we have to take control of the pub sector by setting up a market busting business that beats all the opposition because it's just so good at making pubs great again.

We can do it if we REALLY LOVE PUBS: Fact: We all know what will happen to The Pub 'if someone doesn't do something about it'. Don't we? We know The Pub is on the way out of our lives forever: Because we all KNOW that big business isn't EVER going to 'save the pub'. All big business does in the long run, no matter how you skin that cat, is kill The Pub. That SOMEONE who's going to do something about it HAS TO BE US because no one else is going to do it. Are they? Can WE do it? YES WE CAN!

What big business suits do is raise a load of other people's money, buy loads of pubs, run the estate down, sell the pubs, shrink the size of the business, get bought by another hedge fund, consolidate, flog off more pubs, get eaten by another pubco - get a payoff, go on gardening leave, get a job with another pubco; or set up another pubco, carry on running down The Pub as they only know how, blaming the public for not using 'their' pubs enough.

What we do is raise the same kind of capital but on a business plan that's dynamic, exciting and regenerative, all about investing in pubs, and the people and places they serve; making great, bustling pubs people LOVE to be in and go back to, that generate profit with purpose: the profits going back into the business. There's no conventional EXIT plan - because by default the plan is to protect pubs, invest in them so they become sustainable social asset building businesses in their communities.


What's needed is a national movement that all people - everyone - everyone who loves pubs - can get behind, campaign for, invest in, have a part in creating the object of the movment: Founding a proper Peoples Pub Company. Properly financed and resourced; run professionally by people who LOVE pubs and people more than money. It isn't rocket science. Do great refurbishments. Engage each pub's community in their pub's transition from awful to place they LOVE.

Develop this into an investable business plan. Raise capital by crowd funding the For the People, By the People pubco. Reliably turning run down boozers into award winning, market leading proper Locals that people love. It's not rocket science.

Just a thought. Thanks for listening.

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