A True Story of Pubco incompetence, be warned.
In the summer of 2002 we agreed a 10 year deal with Unique pubco, which after a short while extended to a 30 year voyager lease in view of the positive business relationship, within a short period of time we decided to invest a substantial amount into developing the business further, using family savings and business bank loans thus committing to long term trading at the premises.
After increasing the barrelage considerably our BRM/RM tenant relationship continued in a positive fashion………That is until a bombshell!! Our RM informed us that he would be leaving as he could not agree with the policies of the new company who had just taken over Unique pubco he then introduced us to his replacement, just as we were becoming acquainted she then informed us that she would be leaving and introduced us to her replacement
who after a short while took sick leave with a nervous breakdown !! In between this our new landlords informed us Brulines were coming to install their monitoring equipment, so after our short few year honeymoon period the real face of pubco tenant relationship exposed itself.
We then had a new senior regional area manager who was a much use as ………..anyway let’s move on, after agreeing to a full cellar refit we advised Brulines to hold back for a couple of weeks as we were having a full refit, in their wisdom they chose to ignore this advice needless to say that they immediately turned up at the premises unannounced demanding access to the cellar, on doing so they were quite rude and arrogant whilst accusing us of sabotaging their equipment regardless of the fact that it was quite obvious the cellar techs had cheerily snipped away at all their monitoring equipment and
dumped into a corner of the cellar.
For around four months after the new “upgraded” Brulines installation we received several unpleasant visits from Brulines engineers and enforcers who used extremely sarcastic and accusatory attitudes to continually accuse us of tampering with theirm equipment, looking back it would appear that this was the beginning of the end of our “business partnership” with our new pubco landlords, we had no choice but to defend ourselves from the unpleasant accusations thrown at us, during the previous few years there had never been any question of wrong doings until this time.
After witnessing the demoralizing effect the visits were having on staff and family I undertook a thorough assessment of the premises and what could be causing the discrepancies to warrant their aggressive and arrogant behaviour towards us………Bingo !!!! I found the cause in their installation mistakes the Brulines monitoring system had been wired up to an old metered pump circuit which meant after turning lights of at night it switched off their system. We had been verbally abused and frequently accused of buying out and also tampering with their system because Brulines had not researched the property, had they done so it would have been obvious that the accusations of blocking their system most weekends and bank holidays was self explanatory due to the Industrial estate location of the premises and their installation mistakes.
Our new area manager took extended sick leave then left leaving us with a new female RM who also moved on returning us back to the senior regional manager, who persuaded us to open a neighbouring premises on am TAW, a long and complicated episode but one that almost resulted in my death due to an incident relating to faulty electrics “after their inspection” several emails at HQ in the midlands on file for this we eventually handed the keys back for this one without issues or compensatory penalties. This building has since been sold along with almost all our neighbouring pubs. The new owners are frequently offering a FOT deal without building responsibilities which we are seriously considering as we can redirect all the majority of existing customers to this.
Eventually we are introduced to yet another area manager who turned out to be quite resourceful and helpful even to the point that he recognised that we were the only pub left on his books for that area and would be recommending it for disposal, also that we should register our interest in the building, great news we thought !!!!!!
Almost immediately after that we received several visits from Brulines resulting in a fine which was taken from our account regardless of our evidence and protests, for the first time during our tenancy we came unstuck due to seven coaches turning up unexpectedly, because of this we emptied our cellar of stock and called in favours of people we had lent to in the past, we received our previous stock back plus more, something that had gone on from day one with the knowledge of our BDM except on this occasion the amount was more, we eventually balanced it out, unfortunately Brulines refused to accept this and treated it as a breach of the agreement, we sent emails and letters denying their findings and refused permission to access our account, needless to say they did so anyway, the premises has since fallen away and is only trading to survive, the property has now been de listed for disposal and without an active retail partnership and with dis incentivized tenants it has simply stagnated.
The area manager sympathised with our situation and only for his honesty and straight forward talking he convinced us to work with him, another premises had closed down and he asked us to consider it, as a proof of trust he offered the keys to the premises which we had for a week, during this time we had complete access to the premises without restrictions, after a series of discussions and promise of ongoing support we eventually decided to reopen it on TAW.
Almost immediately this RM was transferred to another area leaving us without a dedicated area manager with which to continue our business discussions, after a short while we were eventually introduced to our new RM who instantly took sick leave with a nervous breakdown leaving us with yet another temporary RM, our new RM resigned under suspicious circumstances with our Divisional Director shortly to follow. The premises is in serious need of decoration, has crumbling and dangerous stairs to the cellar, faulty electrics, leaking roof, broken drainage and faulty ventilation in the gents basement toilets, customers regularly complain or abuse staff.
We end up with a temporary area manager who informs us the main focus of his job is in estates disposals, this does not bode well for any retail partnership, the discussions breakdown and he becomes evasive and restrictive even refusing us permission to redecorate, we then get a new Divisional Director ex JD Wetherspoons and eventually another new RM ex Marstons who also instantly recognises our other premises as a recommendation for disposal, he was experienced and resourceful and knew the area from his Marston days, unfortunately he too moved on, leaving us back to the temporary stand in RM from estates disposals ex Punch. Eventually frustrations take over and we request a meeting to discuss future and past issues, during this meeting it is revealed that the stand in disposals RM actually intervened to put a stop on any progress six months previously, so in effect we had been subsidising their building with our savings as unpaid caretakers whilst being restricted from full trading opportunities. This was a severe body blow and needless to say, emotions took over and we let him know our feelings of disgust that we had been manipulated in this way.
Within a few weeks the new Divisional Director set up another meeting during which he informed us that he had decided we would be given the opportunity to go back to the original deal offered the previous year on a five year non assignable tenancy, we agreed to consider this subject to appropriate compensatory measures for the lost opportunities as unpaid caretakers.
For the next few weeks we experienced several unannounced Bruline visits to calibrate their equipment at both premises, the engineers both commented on our cleaning methods of using keg bottles direct as opposed to the cleaning cups on the ring main, a system we have always had in place, at both pubco premises the Brulines engineer contacted their HQ indicating that there would be huge variances in their “findings” due to the continued use of individual keg bottles at the premises. One even told us that he he’d been instructed to find evidence of tampering, he informed HQ there was no evidence of tampering and he signed the premises off as such then upgraded the premises to a Brulines phase tamperproof 2 his final act was to re calibrate the flow meters, on doing so this revealed a massive increase in the number of pulses being used to measure volume through flow meters since the last calibration which also would create unreliable readings. This resulted in a surprise visit from our stand in manager and the original Brulines officer who accused us of tampering with the original equipment some years ago for which we are still awaiting an apology and thanks for finding the fault in their installation which lead to the accusations.
On this occasion I allowed full unsupervised access whilst I made our feelings known to the RM responsible for the breakdown in business discussions, his only interest was in administering a Brulines fine, they both left the premises laughing ! several weeks later they both arrived unannounced again so on this occasion it became very hostile so we contacted a business advisor who was nearby and is an ex brewery chairman. The RM became agitated and fidgety, constantly shouting and demanding glasses of water, the Brulines officer again inspected the cellar and again could find nothing, this time he was observed and his actions, or lack of, indicated he was only on the premises to issue a fine in his possession, once back in the bar area he too was becoming hostile and agitated whilst waiting for our business advisor.
Almost every product was scrutinised and a look of disappointment pointed at our RM each time he could find no evidence, our business advisor was disgusted at the hostility shown towards us knowing how we had been treated so badly for so long, some members my family were in attendance including my wife who had pressures of her own to deal with and lost her brother the following day, my daughter and grandchildren, finally both the Brulines officer and the RM left and we were all flabbergasted at what had just happened and the manner in which it had. it was a hostile and intimidating experience for everyone, one can only imagine how some tenants would crumble under such intimidating tactics if they were subjected to a similar experience but without witnesses to protect them.
This is a premises that has a history of failed tenants due to excessive overheads, the previous tenant left evidence of letters to their RM pleading for assistance finally resulting in a long drawn out legal battle they ended up giving in and stopped paying any rates, utilities, VAT, rent, etc there is reference to tens of thousands of pounds in Brulines fines and several references involving Gosschalks and court cases for buying out plus re possession proceedings, the premises has stagnated for a considerable time without providing any revenue to the pubco it beggars belief that the current RM has only further contributed to this and has yet to offer one positive to support a retail partnership.
The premises in comparison to neighbouring outlets of the same pubco has, according to the business pub fact information document, has identical trading volumes over the previous six years and has been the lowest volume during current trading yet the rates valuations at them VOA is more than double placing considerable strain on finances, tie release fees offered is also more than double that offered to neighbouring outlets. By comparison we pay over £2000/month for rent and F&F TAW rental plus £1645/month rates yet similar premises nearby are offered £4/month rent and nil £ F&F rental plus.
The views expressed are not necessarily the editors and www.buyingapub.com accepts noresponsibility for them, we do try to avoid offensive or litigious statements being made. They are written by concerned professionals in the industry who feel that these issues should be raised to ensure that all licensees are made fully aware of many hidden pitfalls.