Friday, May 03, 2019

It's time to act. It's time to change EVERYTHING

 Greta Thunberg TEDx Stockholm

Greta Thunberg was born in January 2003, the year the Carbon Trust rejected my grant application to turn the Sun and Doves into the world's first fossil fuel free, sustainable supply chain pub.

The grant was to pay for equipment to turn an 1840's built British public house, which I owned via a tied lease in Camberwell, London SE5, Carbon Neutral by retrofitting the pub's light, heat, refrigeration and water services with high efficiency low environmental impact equipment and installing on site power generation.

Calculations proved what was proposed would make the building (a very busy, award winning inner London pub) at least Carbon Neutral and possibly carbon positive (ie a net generator of electricity) and so create a high profile showcase for new technologies that would be used to proselytise to the public - in Camberwell, nationally and worldwide - that humans CAN live within planetary boundaries AND in comfort - IF we plan it properly. We believed if we could prove that we can socialise, have enjoyment and fun while being 'virtuous', surely we can persuade people to be optimistic and change habits at home as well - in order to Save the Planet. So, in 2003 I registered the Zero Impact Pub Company Ltd at Companies House in the expectation that we would win the grant, move to make the pub Carbon Neutral then take this further over the next decade and set up fossil fuel free public houses all over the UK.

The grant application took most of a year to put together by two low environmental impact building services specialists who did the work for free because we all believed the application was a total no brainer for meeting the Carbon Trust's Kyoto Protocol target tick boxes - which said applications must come from business sectors that could show high likelihood of take up of technologies in ways that would encourage the uptake of mass behaviour change across the population;  Key to our cautious optimism that we might win the grant was that I had secured £110,000 worth of match funding* from many of the pub's suppliers, and contractors who'd be engaged in doing the retrofit, and from Lambeth Council who committed hundreds of Officer hours to the project, and the Carbon Trust grants liaison people had encouraged the application throughout the year. What better way to do these things than in public houses? The most public of all retail environments possible to helping people change lifelong habits

We submitted the grant application with high hopes of success but it was rejected with the feedback that the equipment we proposed to use in the retrofit to make the pub carbon neutral 'was not innovative' so the world's first carbon neutral pub never happened and it still hasn't happened now, 13 years later.

From recollection incidentally, there was a pot of £10 million in that 2003 grant round, one of two application windows that year. It was heavily oversubscribed with £45 million worth of applications put in. In the event only £900K was granted with £9 million 100K rolled over. While we were putting our application together there were two other groups locally in south east London putting their own applications together as well. We knew this because while we used the bar at the Sun and Doves for our meetings, coincidentally the other groups used the pub for their meetings too… We were all very excited about the prospects of being at the forefront of CHANGING EVERYTHING with our applications – we all felt the government was DOING THE RIGHT THING through the Carbon Trust – and moving to make the UK a world leading showcase for a zero emissions sustainable economy. SO. the vast majority of applications were rejected and not one of ours won… the consultants were bemused, disgusted and dismayed. One changed career and moved out of London the other left the UK to travel the world. I stayed tied to my tied pub and continued to try and make a difference without a carbon neutral showcase to do it from. I was under no illusion from that moment on that government is not there to serve us, not there to change anything, just there to administer bullshit and keep the status quo the way it is... and that has been reinforced by everything I've learned since co founding SE5 Forum for Camberwell in 2006 with Barbara Pattinson and co founding the Fair Pint Campaign in 2008 with Steve Corbett, Nicky Francey, Dave Law and Gill Morris.

Now, at last, Greta Thunberg has made the message 
finally hit home, the message we were trying to make the year she was born, on invitation of The Carbon Trust - a government agency who ignored us for more 'innovative' things. Do we now finally have the courage to hear her message and make CHANGE HAPPEN? 

in 2019, SURELY, creating a fossil fuel free, sustainable supply chain pub company is a good place, as Greta says, to start ACTING instead of talking and DOING NOTHING; 

Below is a spread from an article about the Sun and Doves from 2005 Living South Mag covering what I was trying to do with the pub...

J Mark Dodds

Belford, north Northumberland, 3 May 2019

*PS - MATCH FUNDING Bringing the project together 
was a lot of work and the whole process was very exciting and energising. Everyone I approached for support  - individuals and organisations, big and small, was extraordinarily positive and supportive - getting such a huge amount of match funding is always hard but everyone bought into it except, ironically the two organisations who would have benefited the most from the project working:
1) The pub's freeholder, Scottish & Newcastle Pub Enterprises (now Heineken) who were completely recalcitrant and negative "If we give you the OK to do it we might get a flood of tenants wanting low carbon refurbishments" S&NPE Developments Project Manager Gary Botterill.

2) The Carbon Trust.

Friday, October 05, 2018

The Pubs Code Adjudicator

The Pubs Code Adjudicator is called Paul Newby. He is without doubt a pub industry placeman. A selected candidate whose CV should have immediately excluded him from even a moment's consideration for the job. He should never have been appointed. A more inappropriate appointment for the post of tied pub sector policeman could not be conceived save for one of the major pubco CEO's stepping across to the post - but the massive pay drop precluded that ever being a possibility.

Newby on the other hand was senior director at Fleurets - the pubcos estate agent of choice with, conservatively, 20% of its annual revenue derived directly from doing pubco work - selling pubco leases and freeholds and marketing pubco training courses etc... Fleurets' income has been waning in recent years and Newby, along with other directors, has substantial directors' loan to the company which would be under threat of repayment were Fleurets to get into financial difficulties if its income from Pubco were to reduce which, if an independent Pubs Code Adjudicator were in post would be a serious likelihood as the balance of reward would shift from pubcos to their tenants... Newby could leave Fleurets - releasing the company from the burden of paying his salary - his well paid insulated job as PCA would ensure several years' at least before any impact of the Code would pass to the sector - during which time the pubcos could asset strip unhindered, change their business model to managed from tenanted and the profiteering from the attack on British social amenity would continue apace.

All that was predictable and all that is what has been happening. The evidence is in the published record of the past three years pub sector news...

For this to happen there has been collusion at all levels, from callous insouciance by government, arms length negligence by responsible Ministers whose only involvement in the pub sector is to attend beery jambories, hand shaking and back slapping senior pubco protagonists and lobbyists celebrating the homogenisation of the pub sector while criticising beer duty etc as being reasons for pub closures and executive level at CAMRA for denying there is a structural problem at pubco level and by supporting Newby's appointment.


Saturday, September 22, 2018

Beer Duty: why it matters!

Beer Duty is paid to HMRC by the brewer and forms part of the wholesale price of beer. 

When a Pubco applies their markup to the wholesale price the effect of Beer Duty is magnified.

For example if a pint of beer costs £1 wholesale and the Pubco applies a 54% markup then the cost of that pint to a tied tenant is 154.0p*.

If duty goes up by 1p/pint then the 101p wholesale price becomes 155.6p to the tenant.

Doesn’t seem like much of a difference does it? Except that the UK on-trade (pubs and bars) sold 3.64bn pints in 2017!

What do you think happens when duty goes down by a penny?

The wholesale price becomes 100p again. The pubco price becomes 154.6p also down a penny but now they make 54.6p for every pint they resell, rather than 53.9p.

This is the reason the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) - the Pubcos lobby group - wants duty lowered.

Beer Duty reductions make little difference to customers and brewers but are extremely profitable for the like of Punch Taverns, Ei Group, Marstons and Star Pubs and Bars (Heineken). Their clamour for this reduction can be seen in the current ‘Long Live the Local’ campaign in which the BBPA and its members claim to be supporting the very same pubs that their anti-competitive ‘Beer tie’ is wiping out at a rate of 12 a week.

* We know what a brewer charges for beer and we know what the Pubco resells it for. Pubcos seem to operate a Gross Profit of at least 35% which equates to a 53p markup on a pint. Punch Taverns accounts show their typical GP to be a whopping 43%, a markup of 75p on a beer costing £1!

What is ‘the Tie’?

THIS excellent piece by Graeme Wilson at the Golden Ball York

What is ‘the Tie’?

The tie has existed since the industrial revolution. As brewers’ output increased they needed to increase the number of outlets selling their ales.

The tie was born. A brewer would buy a property and fit it out to just sell their own ales. They would repair and maintain the pub. Then a leaseholder, in return for a modest rent, would live in and run the pub, buying all of their stock from the brewer.

In 1989 the government, concerned that only 4 brewers owned most of the UK’s pubs and hence most of the UK’s beer supply, introduced legislation now referred to as ‘The Beer Orders’. This stopped brewers from owning more than 2000 pubs and was intended to increase competition in the sector.

The result of the Beer Orders was that pub ownership moved from brewers to property companies (Pub Operating Companies or Pubcos). There was no limit on the number of pubs that they could own and they quickly expanded, buying up the tied estates of the brewers. These companies had no vested interest in what beer was sold and they were able to continue the tie. But instead of their tenants buying direct from the brewer they instead had to buy through their Pubco. The Pubcos added their own markup to the wholesale price, increasing the costs to tenants. Rents increased too as the Pubcos sought to generate revenue to finance their expansion.

Now a large part of our national pub stock in the ownership of corporations who have no interest in what beer is sold nor for how much, nor even whether their ‘assets’ remain pubs or become shops, offices, housing or are even demolished.

Pubcos have systematically starved their estates of investment shifting all of the costs of running the business onto their tenants, including repair, maintenance and even buildings insurance. As a result many pubs have become ‘unviable’, particularly community pubs similar to the Golden Ball.

This isn’t because of the Smoking Ban, nor because of Beer Duty. It’s not because people are drinking less. It’s another example of big business abusing our community assets for their own profit.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Silenced by magnitude and pressure of events...

A pub revival project and a terminal illness leading to a death have kept my full attention for over a year now...

Back soon I hope

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Elephant in the Room that is Our British Landscape Full of Dying Pubs


For anyone reading these threads who's not completely up to speed with the behaviour of the tied pubcos embroiled in the #GreatBritishPubcoScam it may well seem that exaggeration is used when describing the actions of these rogue trading companies.

It's impossible to exaggerate their delinquency. They are street gutter level muggers no more no less. They have no moral compass, they run rings around the law, such as Trading Standards; Weights and Measures; Landlord and Tenant Act let alone MRO legislation. They actively fuel a roaring fire in the black economy. They are despicable sociopathic corporations run by bullies and venal power graspers who have learned to look the other way in order to earn a living and drive a flash company car. They are motivated solely by greed, sustained by arrogance and wilful ignorance.

They are impossible to believe from a rational world viewpoint which is how they get away with their cultural crimes.

There. Most people reading this will dismiss it because it sounds like a huge exaggeration doesn't it?

THAT is the point.

It's not exaggeration, it is how they are. And YOU don't believe it. Do you?

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Evicted Daventry publican closed pub because of rising cost of beer and rent ...

PUB & CARVERY couldn't be more accurate when describing the tied lease contract 

Alison Granfield stands outside The Peppermill

This woman is a victim of the #GreatBritishPubcoScam

The pubco's marketing material misrepresents what its tied lease business model offers - a form of enticement which can be interpreted after the fact as being done with intent to defraud - when you look at the evidence of 'tenant churn' in (all) the tied estates (around half the pubs in the UK) it's impossible not to deduce that a substantual proportion of all tied pubco's financial success is predicated upon the serial failure of individual pubs in their estates which in turn is predicated on the serial failure of multiple individual businesses being set up by starry eyed potential 'business partners' the pubcos have entrapped with their well worn white collar rogue trader business practices.

Many things are wrong in Britain that need correction but what will be looked back on as The Crime of the Century is the churn of the Corporate Cultural Criminal pubcos and their ripping apart community cohesion everywhere by deception and fraud committed on thousands of their tied tenants as they asset strip Britain's traditions, heritage and Sense of Place for the sake of short term private equity driven greed.

Monday, October 09, 2017

This Day Last Year I was doing research for the Brown Bear in Berwick-upon-Tweed

THIS day last year I was doing research for Berwick Brown Bear and met Jim Herbert down the Barrels Ale House. We got the Brown Bear open on 8 December.

It's been an interesting year. Brown Bear - set up as a not for profit social enterprise. Living Wage Foundation accredited. CAMRA LocAle awarded from January 2017. Serendipitously Roger Protz visited the pub the day after we opened during the final leg of research for his book Historic Coaching Inns of the Great North Road and wrote a sypathetic piece about this ex tied pub's revival as a modern free house.

And we've had some very good press since - see below. There is much still to do - a year is but a fleeting moment in the timeline of Great British Pub History -

We have convened an advisory board of local stakeholders which includes representatives of Berwick Slow Food Association and Berwick Film Festival and the Anglican Church. We are now getting support from Plunkett Foundation and applying to the More Than A Pub programme. Martin Booth, committee member at the George and Dragon Hudswell (CAMRA pub of the year 2016) is helping us with our Action Plan. Dave Hollings has helped with some excellent input in the background. Damon Horrill is sharing the exciting multi stakeholder cooperative business model he's developing around the Cornerstone Inns group. MANY other people have been supporting the pub in many ways - not just in being customers - and we have recently got a grant from Berwick Community Trust wind turbine core legacy fund to pay for a thorough environmental audit of the building and adjacent outhouses so we have accurate data for energy consumption and a detailed report on how to reduce the business's carbon footprint and a plan for making the property #FossilFuelFree in the relative near future.

Around all of this the marvellous Jim Herbert, historian and Quiz Master extraordinaire has been researching the pub's history... and has published a book called 'A Brief History of Opening Time ... the story of the Brown Bear'

The Brown Bear is definitely coming out of hibernation from a dormant period that threatened to end the pub's literally iconic life at the heart of Berwick-upon-Tweed. The next chapters of the Brown Bear's history are being made as we eat and drink