Monthly Archives: December 2011

Complacency continues to hold sway, another from the pen Robert Swayles. Barrel-Dregs (220)

Pub Co Complacency continues to hold sway

So, British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) chairman and Molson Coors chief executive Mark Hunter acknowledges that the rate of pub closures is “alarming” and the decline in beer volumes is a “wake up call of epic proportions”.

Well not before time. So, given this rather bleak assessment, the question we are all asking of course is what he and his colleagues intend to do about it?


What ground breaking initiatives have they devised to address the impending calamity?


The reason I ask is because we’ve heard it all before, haven’t we?


In 2008, the then BBPA Chief Executive Rob Hayward expressed similar sentiments, stating “beer sales in pubs are now at their lowest level since the Great Depression of the 1930s – down seven million pints a day from the height of the market in 1979”.


Now one could be forgiven for concluding that a proclamation as dire as this would get the alarm bells ringing. Well actually no; Rob Hayward duly departed to be replaced by Brigid ‘government taxation’ Simmonds.


Brigid made her modus operandi clear from the outset; lay all blame for the demise of the pub trade firmly at the feet of government.


It’s a strategy Mark Hunter appears keen to replicate, hence his appeal to Westminster for action. The message is clear; all this chaos afflicting the pub trade has nothing to do with us; government are to blame, they need to sort it out.


So that’s all right then, isn’t it? Let’s all just sit back and wait for them to do something about it, shall we?


Now whilst no-one would deny that the onerous duty escalator has undoubtedly contributed to the problem, I think most of us would accept that the industry must also take a great deal of the blame for the carnage we are currently witnessing.


Did Mark acknowledge that certain pubcos have contributed to their own downfall? Just as importantly, did he intimate that lessons have been learned?


No, the message was loud and clear. A scapegoat has been found so let’s carry on as usual, shall we?


Coors and Carlsberg were clearly very happy to do so. Both recently announced price hikes equivalent to 7 pence a pint. It’s the obvious answer to falling demand, isn’t it? Keep raising the price of the product.


Of course they would argue that such rises are “beyond their control” and necessary to cover additional costs. Cynics of course would suggest that brewers are offsetting depleted margin in the off trade by foisting annual increases upon the on trade; a policy sanctioned by a mutual beneficiary, namely the pubco.


This notion gains added credence once you dismiss the idea that rising wholesale beer prices are bad for pubcos.


Pubcos need escalating pre- discount wholesale beer prices to secure additional profits. Obtaining increased discounts from the supplying brewers enables them to secure greater margin.


It appears to be a nice little arrangement for both sides. Strange Mark neglected to mention this, isn’t it?


The result of course is that publicans are now in the business of selling a product that people feel less inclined to buy, at a price fewer can afford to pay. Hardly a recipe for long term success, is it?


I also find it odd that Mark didn’t lament the fact that for years large pubcos were fixated with growing their estates whilst showing little inclination to invest in their acquisitions.


The fact of the matter is that complacency ruled. Pubcos convinced themselves that people’s love for beer would always override any concerns they had about the quality of the establishments they drank in.

Robert Swayles 


The views expressed are not necessarily the editors and accepts no responsibility 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.




Alliance Online Catering Equipment – suppliers of Pub and Bar Equipment to the Licensed Industry


Brulines, and local Trading Standards, some good advice.

Chris Wright

11:11am Dec 19

If anyone on here is being fobbed off by the local Trading Standards in relation to Brulines trade use and getting no-where in getting your fines back, then email the TS response you have to contact the aide to the minister Mr Iain Mansfield (CCP) and tell him nothing is happening and you want action.

BII has finally hit rock bottom and lost the plot, Barrel Dregs (219)

BII finally sheds it’s last vestige of being a Professional Body.

My sources in the BII are very concerned about the direction that the BII has now taken.

Well to some of us it was totally predictable, ever since Grant became Chairman the direction has always been away from a members organisation to one aligning with the Pub Co’s.

To be fair aligning with pub owning companies is not a bad thing, but this obsession with using ex Pub Co rejects in prime BII positions, that have come from the worst Pub Co’s featured in the BISC’s Inquiries and the ones pillloried in the National Press, is sheer stupidity and a very unsubtle cover to raise these companies credibility  in respect of the BISC’s, and a hollow attempt to endorse their obscene activities in ruining honest people and many now ex BII members.

Under Grant the BII have foregone their independent position as a professional body, they are no longer a genuine members organisation raising professional standards in the industry, that statement has finally become window dressing to impress gullible politicians, Ed Davey springs to mind.

The aim of the BII originally was an independent members body to be respected in the Industry, the development of basic qualifications aided these aims, but to have qualifications, standards had to be established and checked to have any value, which they always were with considerable effort by well informed members.

These have now been quietly forgotten, deals with the questionable pub owning companies and others have been done and membership is automatic, paid for by the company, be assured the bill as always will be part of the new licensees initial costs as always, nothing changes, only the wording.

These people are made members over the phone, no checks on standards or ability, they are numbers to give the BII and in turn the Pub Co’s credibility to get the BISC off their backs.

Bought members have little knowledge of the BII and the majority do not renew, unless the company pays for successive years, in many cases unlikely.

The enormous Churn of licensees within these questionable companies ensures an ever changing membership, where a few might keep up their membership, the majority do not.

John McNamara came in as CEO, a very nice guy, but totally out of touch with the industries undesirable activities by the ungodly Pub Co’s, he even told our learned Barfly that Punch Taverns were rock solid, when anyone with an iota of knowledge of the Industry knew that their debt mountain exceeded their assets by an obscene amount, he was allegedly given a discreet nudge to go.

To be replaced by “Young Arthur” (Neil Robertson), complete Cannon Fodder, young eager and a very smart guy, but knew nothing about the real nasties below the surface of the Industry.

You don’t expect that sort of thing with a supposedly independent Professional Body, to coin a phrase, the BII had already got a firm grasp of certain undesirable Pub Co’s Shillings, in their almost total dependence on qualification revenue.

The lure of revenue overcame being independent and the untouchable arbiter in disputes, the BII is now in many people’s eyes a subsidiary of the BBPA, who are now wholly controlled by the very Pub Co’s under continual scrutiny and condemnation by successive BISC’s, Grant was a good appointment or plant in the BII if you’re Enterprise Inns or Punch Taverns  etc.

However Young Arthur has seen the light is leaving at high speed, a very smart move for a man with principles.

Meanwhile, Thomas, Grants Hatchet Man has produced this report merging many of the Regions, giving members very little chance to air their views, thoughts and concerns, a few did at Regional functions, he is very generously taking over as CEO until a replacement can be found?????

But the main aim is to remove the old school who believed in an independent members body, they do not suit the now BII paymasters, reading this, it sounds like Putin and Russia.

Alec Roud would have been furious, Martin O’Grady, another notable, is not a happy man and a number of other founders and long term senior members equally so, many having worked for years to try and make the BII a respected body, to see it all go down the Pub Co pan because of poor leadership.

Depending on your view point, it’s a success for Enterprise, Punch, Admiral etc.

The BII under Young Arthur (Laughing Policeman) was asked by the BISC to  Police the Industry, with little or no effect, without legislation it would be impossible and possibly costly for the BII.

Now we have an ever bigger farce the Government is relying on the BIIBAC Codes to control the Industry, fat chance the BBPA lauds the praises on their errant Pub Co’s and paymasters and sweep any complaints under the carpet, if they get past the first set of Buffers, the BII, or should I say Duffers.

Now with the BII being run by ex Pub Co cast offs, no complaint will have any chance of seeing the light of day.

The Ombudsman, if there ever is one, will under PICAS, tell them to stand on the naughty boys step and snatch away their accreditation, so there.

Not that the accreditation is worth the paper that it is written on, it’s not even a Paper Tiger but a Paper Poodle with no teeth.

An interesting question, how many alleged regional Chairman or Directors of the BII enjoyed rents reductions of up to 50% and which of these people lost an eye-watering amount on a Pub Co lease in two years and got a massive F & F settlement from their Pub Co, that even our source in the Pub Co said it was more than his job was worth to reveal the exact amount, we do know because the person involved boasted about it after a few beers and then tried to deny it in the cold light of day. His comment initially was that, “A Pub Co could not be seen to have a Director of the BII lose that sort of money on a pub lease”, they were after all, very rare, valuable, antique Fixtures and Fittings???????

One thing is certain to anyone seriously involved with the BII and the Industry, the Pub Co’s need the endorsement of a credible BII far more than the BII needs any  connection with a Pub Co under a BISC scrutiny, infiltrating the BII with Pub Co cast offs and threats of withdrawing qualification support should not influence ANY Proferssional Body in an industry, otherwise the Body has no credibility or standing in the industries eyes, you cannot buy respect, it has to be earned, this has been diminishing since Grant took over and has finally been lost.

Bring back the old members with professional pride and integrity, send anyone who has been employed by any Pub Co. under scrutiny by the last two BISC’s packing, or enjoyed Pub Co benefits over and beyond that which normal members would get, let’s clean up the BII and get its integrity and respect back, or maybe not bother, it’s probably way too late.


The views expressed are not necessarily the editors and accepts no responsibility 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.


Alliance Online Catering Equipment – suppliers of Pub and Bar Equipment to the Licensed Industry




Freedom to Choose, Newsletter, as always an interesting read, even for non-smokers like me.

December Newsletter

Posted: 15 Dec 2011 02:00 PM PST

Christmas Issue
Chairman’s Message

The Christmas season is upon us and may I wish everyone a prosperous and happy Christmas. Not that the anti-smoking forces will be seen to be helping us. 2012 will be a year when smoking and the tobacco industry will be coming under more pressure: outside smoking bans, car smoking bans and plain packaging of cigarette packets with gruesome medical pornography.

It is not all doom and gloom. Freedom2Choose has matured into a nationally recognised body and we have assembled an impressive team with unique skills and abilities. The media see us as a natural debater and spokesperson for the smoker. We also have access to Freedom Of Information (FOI) for outside smoking bans and should anyone want to put in a Freedom Of Information (FOI) request for their locality they are welcome to come and pick our brains.

What I am looking forward to most, apart from my family, is my port and stilton – followed by a roll-up… bliss!

Dave Atherton

A Reminder…
…to all forum members that the forum is now back on-line and functioning as normal. Our grateful thanks to Tony, who who dealt with the recent ‘outage’ quickly and with calm professionalism.

The new URL is:

And you can still find us via the F2C Home Page which is running a new ‘Vews from the Forums’ feature.

If you haven’t yet joined, forum registration is free and easy!

The Selflessness of Children

The BMA’s call to ban smoking in all cars sparked the loudest media backlash since…well, the BMA’s last call to ban smoking in cars. Almost forty articles covering the news landed in the f2c forums: for the truly masochistic, most are listed below. The majority view was, if anything, even more outraged than it was back in June – a rare setback in the normal pattern of anti-smoking campaigns, which goes:

1 Pick a ‘scare’
2 Advertise ‘scare’ widely (ie. ‘educate the public’).
3 Test public opinion on ‘scare’
4 Repeat 2 and 3 until
5 85% people say Government must BAN ‘scare’.

One imagines an almost linear progression in public acceptance of the chosen ‘scare’ as re-education hammers home the central message. But when it comes to smoking in one’s car, the graph looks more like a warning for bends ahead and, for this, the BMA has only itself to blame. Being caught out peddling misinformation and hyperbole can hardly have done the doctors’ union any favours, and it will be interesting to see how deep and how long the BMA’s credibility will have been damaged by its inablitlity to get even the most basic of its facts right.
Breaking and Reports Opinion
The BMA’s demands were released to coincide with Labour MP Alex Cunningham’s Ten Minute Rule Bill. In the event, the Bill got nowhere. However, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health has recommended public consultation and yet more campaigning, and with Cunningham’s Bill due for another airing in January, this is not the last we will be hearing of car smoking bans in England – or anywhere else in the British Isles, for that matter.
A Winter’s Tale

For Grown-ups!

Millicent Binks. We do hope that’s not a pub she’s smoking in.

Reduced Ignition Propensity Cigarettes

While media attention was all on the BMA’s car smoking ban, the Reduced Ignition Propensity cigarette slipped quietly into our lives. From the 17th November, these ‘fire-safe’ smokes became mandatory across the European Union.

The hilariously named RIP cigarette is designed to go out if not drawn on regularly. Two bands of thicker paper encircle the cigarette to act as ‘speed bumps’, cutting oxygen to the burning tip. It is estimated that this modification will save over 1,000 smokers from setting fire to themselves every year, which explains the involvement of the London Fire Brigade in the RIP Coalition, formed in 20007 to lobby for this new EU law. The puzzle is ASH’s presence in the campaign.

Europe joins a growing league of nations that has adopted the fire safe cigarette following its launch seven years ago in New York. Hugely interesting is the almost complete absence of complaints from anywhere outside the United States where, anecdotally, smokers are experiencing a wide range of health reactions, including headaches, nausea, chest and stomach pains and/or excess coughing, soon after changing to fire-safe. A second widespread complaint is that of ‘cherry drop’, which appears to make the fire-safe model even more of a fire-hazard than the old standard one. All tobacco manufacturers are using the speed-bump method, with a free hand to adapt the technologies needed.

All anyone in England seems to have noticed is that cigarettes have a tendency to go out these days, like roll-ups. However, European smokers might like to know that the focus of testing has been entirely on fire-resistance, with virtually none on potential health risks. Nothing has changed since 2007, when public health activist Hemant Goswami said:

Such concepts have been only tested from the fire-safety point of view and no independent study has still been undertaken by the scientific or public health community to assess the effect of the engineered modifications in RIP cigarettes.

Outdoor Bans and Freedom of Information

Coventry and Wirrel are reported to be exploring how the localism bill can help them to introduce new and entirely unnecessary smoking bans.

Freedom of Information requests have been sent to both councils, asking to know under whose authority these extensions to the 2006 Health Act are being implemented. If your local council has any such plans, we have a reliable FoI template that you may find helpful.

Contact f2cnewsletter [at] for details.

Cigarette sales fall as smokers cut back …according to Luke Clancy of the Research Institute for a Tobacco Free Society, Ireland. He then went on to say there is, “no evidence that sales were down due to an increase in smuggling.”


Applying the standard equation 10% tax rise = 4% fewer smokers, health researchers were expecting to find large numbers of East Europeans giving up the habit as the massive hikes needed to bring national levies in line with EU tax law were imposed. Instead, smoking figures have remained steady and even managed to rise in several countries.

A Tobacco Manufacturers Association spokesman said, “We very much hope that, in his Autumn Statement, the Chancellor will take the opportunity to combat tobacco smuggling in a meaningful way and resist the temptation to raise duty.”

Perhaps the Chancellor was listening. In any case, no sin-tax increases were announced in his Autumn Statement.


Meanwhile, the BBC is keeping us up to date on all UKBA’s latest triumphs.

Spending our Money – More Junk Science

The State University of New York has made the breakthrough discovery that grown up people often turn to booze and fags to cope with stress. Men, especially, self-medicate this way to deal with financial worry.


The University of Missouri is examining student patterns of smoking as part of a new initiative to stop them doing it. This initiative employs the novel approach of poking around in the heads of smokers until they say ‘I give in!’ it is known as ‘motivational interviewing’, and should not be confused with the tired, old approach that relied mainly on nagging.

Suggesting practical ways to apply the lessons learned from its study, UM Lead Reasercher, Nickole Crope spoke of, “Targeting smoking prevention efforts immediately after students arrive on campus and throughout the semester in student email messages just prior to the weekend.”


A study of twins’ smoking patterns suggests that our genes play a greater role in the habit than previously thought. Somehow, this leads the University of Boulder Colerado researchers to conclude that the current tax-and-anathematise approach has run its course, leaving a hard-core minority of genuine, genetically-determined addicts just begging for more counselling and nicotine-replacement therapy.

Plain Packaging not All Plain Sailing

As expected, Philip Morris is to sue the Australian government under the terms of the Australia – Hong-Kong Bilateral Trade Treaty, which PM says has been broken by Australia’s introduction of drab-and-ghastly packaging for cigarettes. BAT and Imperial will almost certainly follow PM’s lead.

Meanwhile, a queue of disgruntled tobacco-producing nations is lining up along with their international trade lawyers. One such legal challenge could come from Cuba, state-owner of Habanos cigars. The Cuban government is citing violation of World Trade Organisation rules.

UPDATE: Legal wrangling over trading rights has put a temporary brake on similar plain-packaging laws in Britain. The government message seems to be, ‘Let’s see what happens to the Aussies, first’ – as predicted two weeks earlier by Mark Littlewood.

In a case that could go all the way to the US Supreme Court, the Obama administration is seeking to overturn last month’s district court decision, which placed a temporary injunction on plans for gory warnings on cigarette packs.

The district court ruled that the law was, “unconstitutional because it compels speech in violation of the First Amendment.”

Dirty Habits
On the same day that UK trade magazine the Grocer announces that, British American Tobacco tops new EA energy efficiency table, the Guardian is reporting on the scandal that is industrial air pollution.

In a bold new arrangement of the formula, the European Environment Agency says:

Air pollutants …are now a bigger killer than passive smoking, road traffic accidents and obesity together.

And finally…
A Pick of the Best, Worst and Silliest Bits of 2011


Publication of the Government’s Public Health White Paper: Healthy Lives, Healthy People – the cause of much ensuing confusion.


The lifting of Evin Law, which had forced the airbrushing of cigars, cigarettes and pipes from all public images, much to disgust of the patriotic French.


CAGE’s discovery of the document Smoke-Free Outdoor Public Spaces: A Community Advocacy Toolkit – the Canadian Physcian’s ‘How To’ manual for forcing smoking bans on your community.


Publication of the Smoking Ban Review, researched, written and published by Public Health. Naturally, we replied.


WHO representatives warn anti-smoking bodies to avoid close ties with the pharmaceutical industry – at a conference funded by Pfizer (Nicorette) and GlaxoSmithKline (Niquitin).


Writing in the Independent, Andrew Buncombe speculates that Osama Bin Laden may have had a ‘no smoking’ rule at his Pakistani hide-out.


The daftest quote of the year: “It would be safer to have your exhaust pipe on the inside of your car than smoke cigarettes…”
Dr. Douglas Noble, BMA


Stand-off at Stony Stratford – When the press and the people said ‘enough is enough!”


The launch of Anthony Warrall Thompson’s e-petition. If you haven’t already, PLEASE DO GO AND SIGN IT!


As our own ‘austerity measures’ begin to bite, an early casualty is the charity National No Smoking Day which is to lose half its government funding.


The bar and café owners of Belgium unite to go on the attack!


Media response to the BMA’a car smoking-ban suggests – for the second time this year – that normal people have had enough of health lobby demands.
From everyone at Freedom2Choose

Merry Christmas

c/o John H Baker 22 Glastonbury House, Priestfields, Middlesbrough, Cleveland TS3 0LF
Tel/Fax 0845 643 9469

Freedom2choose (Scotland):
c/o The Dalmeny Bar, 297 Leith Walk,
Edinburgh EH6 8SA
Tel 0845 643 9552


Morgan & Clarke news letter, well worth reading.


Welcome to our new Newsletter.

The newsletter will act as a forum to both inform and update both members of the trade and their professional advisers on matters of topical interest.

Morgan & Clarke occupy a specialist niche role in the Licensed and Leisure Market in that we concentrate specifically on lease and rental matters and other issues of legal dispute requiring expert licensed property specialist advice.


Free of Charge Strength of Case Review

We are seeing an increasing number of referrals from the provision of our now famous ‘strength of case review’. Although this is a desk-top review of valuation issues it does enable both the client and ourselves to accurately judge the reality of the situation and challenge the position held by the other side.

If the strength of case review is accepted, we then move forward to the provision of a detailed Rental Valuation & Report – effectively the second phase (which attracts an associated fee – pre-agreed). After that Report is supplied the client often takes the option of finishing the negotiating process themselves. We are always delighted if an amicable settlement can then be reached without our further involvement.

To quote from a recent client who carried out the third phase negotiations himself:

“I’ve agreed at £46,000 and you probably won’t approve of anything more than your £44,000 but I am pleased with the result ; a £13,000 decrease is a lot better than I had expected. Thank you so very much for your help, I would never have aimed for such a large decrease without your advice.”


Is trade really falling?

Our take on the trade is truly national with offices in the North Midlands and Yorkshire, London, Bristol, Cardiff and North Devon. We are seeing the rural / provincial supply-tied pubs suffering harder than the free-of-supply leasehold market or the outright freehold freehouses. In general we echo the BBPA statistical findings that beer sales nationwide in the ‘on-trade’ continue to fall. Last year it was by over 7%.

London remains remarkably resilient and keeps marching on ahead with ever increasing sales being evidenced in high profile client outlets in the major London inner suburbs and Central London.

Outer London is another matter with a flattening off of sales despite the mantra that if you provide food you are bound to attract more custom. Concern is increasing over deep discounting and the continuation of two-for-one offerings with some provincial pubs even replacing pub signage on the side of their buildings with a permanently painted sign saying “Two for one on all weekday lunches and evening meals”. This has to be a candidate for long term disaster – once it becomes entrenched that you should expect two for one offers it is almost impossible to change the basic concept. If you then drop the offer your competitor will most likely take it up.

An “on message” comment from an Enterprise Inns Divisional Director the other day was the constant repetition of the mantra “we are primarily here to drive business forward”. Well that’s all well and good if the rent is affordable – looking at annual increases linked to R.P.I. (currently 5.2%), there is no point in driving forwards if it’s off a financial cliff!


Yet another result

To those who know Bristol, the Bierkeller is a massive first-floor Club/Bar/Entertainment premises in the Pithay over what used to be Panache Nightclub. Alder King for the Freeholders wanted £60,000 on lease renewal. We advised £17,500. A year’s worth of negotiation later the lease was finally renewed at ……….. £17,500.    Nuff said!


PIRRS and Arbitration

The argument still rumbles on with PIRRS being constantly touted as the preferred option, that is if you are a Pubco facing Third Party dispute resolution. Back in November 2010 at the behest of the Morning Advertiser, this office prepared a factual critique of the two systems. The article was never published as a result of “reservations” that were expressed from certain influential Pubco quarters. The content is dry and factual but we hope explains the specific differences between the two systems. If you would like a copy of this critique, please apply to the office.

BISC Transcript

Always hot off the presses with the very latest. Below is the download for the transcript of Ed Davey, Minister of Employment Relations, Consumer and Postal Affairs etc. on his appearance at the BISC Hearing on the 6th December.


Government Reaction to BISC

It seems that the ultimate sanction for a Pubco found wanting under the yet to be established PICAS system is that the BII will take away its accreditation (Q.115). The Minister accepted that RICS Regulations were not being followed, but with the strengthening of the Code, they would be. Er…., that is if you are in the BBPA. Wellington Pub Co. and all smaller independent Pubco’s are not! (Q.121).

Nothing has been done about the AWP machine shares (Q.123) except that the Minister was assured that “the BBPA would continue discussing with Industry Partners”. Expect no change.

Our Director, Simon Clarke, got a brief mention in his role for the Independent Pub Consortium (IPC) when the IPC met with the Minister (Q.144).

The ultimate revelation, timed to perfection by Adrian Bailey, Chairman of the BISC, was a true Columbo (Peter Falk) moment as he turned in his crumpled raincoat – “Oh, and one last thing!” . This was Q.172 on Page 35 out of 37 – Brulines. The Minister confirmed that if Brulines was used for fining purposes then it was for “use in trade” and would now be under the scrutiny of Weights and Measures. If the kit is just used for monitoring then that’s o.k..

So what is now the point of Brulines. Our advice is not to rip the kit off the wall as that would be in breach of your lease. Leave it there as it cannot do you any harm any more. It is now just an electronic curiosity and of minimal use as a management tool. The vast majority still don’t report in real time and are the subject of management adjustment (as appropriate) by Brulines.

Watch this space for further Brulines developments!


There is no specific timing or format to this Newsletter other than we aim to publish to an ever widening email based group of colleagues, friends and clients things that perhaps would not get published in the mainstream trade press. Our aim is not to be confrontational or in any way libellous, but to present you with factual information that will hopefully ensure that your relationships with either other trade colleagues or associated trade professionals is enhanced as a result.


Have a great Christmas break and all at Morgan & Clarke hope that the tills will ring merrily on high and that trade prospers over the festive season. We will be back early in the New Year with a far more detailed Newsletter pulling together some of the thornier issues facing the licensed trade. Cheers until then.


The Team at M & C


Phone: 01285 719292

At last Common Sense prevails, Barrel-Dregs (218)

Punch Taverns  fail to read the small print

December 2011 08:12

“IT’S been a nightmare.”

So said Selkirk businessman Fred Bell after being pursued for two years for a debt he didn’t owe.

Punch Taverns claimed Mr Bell owed them more than £11,000 in back rent and other costs at the town’s Cross Keys Inn he rented from them. But the result for The Fleece publican was a decree of absolvitor in a civil case last week, which means the sheriff found in his favour and not only does Mr Bell not have to pay the money, but the pub giants are also prevented for pursuing him for the cash again.

And instead Punch are going to pay him £300 to cover his court-related costs.

Mr Bell said: “It’s been very stressful. I have never been in court in my life and I was there seven times. It was so clear-cut that I didn’t owe this money.”

Last January Mr Bell, who also owns the Dryburgh Hotel in Newtown St Boswells, gave Punch notice he was stopping renting the Cross Keys Inn because overheads were too high.

He went ahead and closed the Market Place premises in March – and soon after started receiving letters from Glasgow solicitors acting for Punch Taverns saying he owed rent.

Then in July they wrote claiming he owed them over £11,200.

But Mr Bell’s lease with the pub giants said he only had to give a month’s notice.

The letters continued, followed by a court summons for £11,600, £7,600 for back rent and £3,000 for items purchased, but which Mr Bell says he hadn’t bought.

He told us: “At this point I thought ‘this is a joke, how can they be asking for this money when they have got a copy of the lease – which they had sent me – which says the lease notice was 28 days?’ How could they be asking for six months?”

When negotiating with Punch Taverns in spring the previous year, Mr Bell told us he had held out for the single month’s notice before signing the contract.

“I’ve seen too many businesses suffer. You can wrack up a lot of debt in six months. I wasn’t signing anything until I was happy with it,” he said.

He was so confident he had a cut and dried case that he decided to defend himself, but admits: “I was out of my depth.” And he is grateful for local solicitor Iain Burke’s help.

The case was contiuned seven times before going to a proof hearing last Friday. Mr Bell didn’t attend on legal advice and the matter went ahead.

The next he heard, via a letter from Mr Burke, was that the case had gone in Mr Bell’s favour and Punch were paying his costs.

“I have gone from owing over £11,000 to them giving me £300,” said Mr Bell. “I’m just happy to draw a line under it. I’m delighted it’s finished and I can get on with things.”

A spokesperson for Punch Taverns said the company did not want to comment.

Note. There must be some red faces in Punch, I hope this will be a lesson to new lessees, Go For 28 Days Notice on a Lease, refuse to sign unless you get it.


The views expressed are not necessarily the editors and accepts no responsibility 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.

Alliance Online Catering Equipment – suppliers of Pub and Bar Equipment to the Licensed Industry



Pub Co’s, answers to a simple question on Facebook. Barrel Dregs (217)

Please note, access to this site is totally free if you would like to subscribe (No Charge) on, they are free to be read for your guidance and aimed to help you get through a time of considerable pressure and demand.

Barrel-Dregs has been run for many years, we change all the identifiable details, but give you an insight as to many of the sharp or bad practices by a number of companies, in most cases they are just legal but morally unacceptable.

We have a number of Pub owning companies that we will not recommend, their actions have featured in Barrel-Dregs too many times, we did hope that by highlighting their antics they might change, but in Barrel-Dregs terms “Leopards do not change their spots, they cover them with more Mud.”

Pub Co’s answers to a simple question on Facebook.

Trying to work out a business plan for EI what percentage roughly (on average) of wet sales are Beers, Ciders & Fabs V wines, spirts and minerals? It’s very confusing for people new to the trade.

SS:- EI? Max – do yourself a favour and walk away, and have nothing more to do with this shabby little company.e industry! (guess its designed to be that way!)

JC:- Have nothing to do with any pub co.

PW:- here here…….or put all minus figures and see what the BDM makes of it.

IC:- You can bet your life, if its not tied then it will be less than 30%. Otherwise the PubCo would tie it.

 PS:-Ours was 80% Max…please listen to the people on here, do not touch pubco pubs with a bargepole, they will ruin your life.

SK:- Do not touch Enterprise. Been shafted by them myself, also don’t listen to their so called trading figures and huge discounts.

JC:- Max , you may think that all we do on here is whinge, well maybe we do, and we have every right to. Lambs to the slaughter mate. Our trade dropped in July and August this year, as it did for a lot of publicans 488,000 pints LESS sold per day during July & August 2011 than the same period in 2010. The supermarket off trade is now outselling the pub on trade. the re opening of a Free house 200 yards up the road from me has not helped in anyway shape or form!!! And unless we get a level playing field I will give it 5 years before every pub in this country is boarded up. Read the stories of those on here that have lost everything, and those that are struggling…………….……. and watch this space, there is a lot more heartbreak to come.

KW:- Max, don’t do it!!! For the love of god and your sanity DO NOT DO IT…… There will be tears before bedtime.
JCA:- My Uncle had a great pub in the 70’s, licence to print money. He had 2 holidays a year overseas, a new car every 12 months, whether he needed one or not, the latest clothing, furniture, jewellry for my aunt, AND……………… TIME OFF!!…!! we havent had a holiday since 1999, we have a car thats worth about 500 quid , if that, designer clothes are not on the shopping list, furniture ? havent replaced since 2002 just looked after it, and as for jewellery,…… not a hope. You have been warned!!!!!!!!
JCA:- And if you go under, the brewery will say you were “not suitable” ” under achievers” and what ever other fancy term they care to use for hardworking under paid over worked publicans who take pride in what they do!!!!!!
Note, The term in the TAW and Closed Reasons Tracker for a major Pub Co is Retailer Failure (5800 forced change overs, exits in two and a half years by one Pub Co alone without the others, it’s called the Churn and these figures never see the light of day officially.)
 DW:- Max if you do this you will regret it the rest of your life. They will promise the earth and give you nothing please please please listen to what we are all telling you on here, the Pubco’s will ruin you believe us all we have all been there.  If you do nothing else in life please listen to us.
Max Johnson I see some pubco pubs that look like they are well run though ? What happens then to those that have a dream of running a pub? Has everybody here had a bad experience with  pubcos when you have run a food establishment as well as just a wet sales pub ?
JC:- I am somewhat surprised Max that you are even contemplating this when you are friends with Barfly from this site !!
DW:- I have run a great food trade from day 1 guess what Pubco’s don’t like, so up will go your rent and your beer prices, so they can get as much out of you as they can we are not trying to smash your dream Max, just not with a Pubco please 17yrs in the trade with a Pubco for the last 5 lost everything I have made before it so not naieve just stupid to listen to them.
BC:- Don’t do it, your dream will turn into a nightmare. Go into your local pubco pubs and ask the landlords/ladys what they think of the pubcos who own their pubs. If they are honest it will frighten you, even the busy ones have issues trust me.
DW:- No Pubco is well run, why do you think they are all in debt top 5 Pubco,s owe 20 billion pound is that what you call well run.
JC:- They borrow money against the bricks and mortar that you will rent, so basically what you put in you won’t take out, you will be working to pay off their debt!!
SC:- We are in London and run a high end gastro pub and we charge £4 pint average and we sell 400 brewers barrels a year and we constantly struggle.
So take heed my friend
We might well turn over a million pounds this year and we. Still can’t pay our VAT.
DWB:- Max why do you think we are all on here if we were happy with our Pubco we wouldn’t even consider being on here. But we are not and we try to avoid somebody else losing all their hard earned cash to a robbing Pubco .
MJ:- Is it still not worth a flutter with a retail tenancy partnership ? 2 year contract however can give 6 months notice and scarper ? I currently run a marquee business and feel like I have a lot of energy to put into my local pub.
Note:-If you are hell bent on takinga pub and can’t afford a freehold, take a tenancy with a local brewer, a number of these have adopted the Pub Co Model, so be damned careful, get good advice and not from the company, listen to what the company has to say and believe that which is backed up by audited figures, if they are not true you can sue them.
BC:- We had tenancies, lost £100,000 and bankrupt for £90,000. That was EI.
DW:- Hope you have lot’s of cash as well. If you have money to burn then go ahead you will lose it faster than you earned it even on 6 months.
BC:- I had lots of energy too, not now though, we wre left homeless and skint.
JCA:- ‎Max if you do this then save one of your marquees, you’ll need it to live in later.
BC:- We cannot all be wrong, you would be better to put it on a horse. You have more chance of getting something back.
Max Johnson Do you all still run pubs now ?
DW:- I do yes, but I now but Freehold big difference.
BC:- I lost mine 23rd October 2011 after 9 and a half years, took it from 90 barrels to 400 and raised £21,000 for charities and good causes. I hope you don’t lose everything Max like we did.
RS:-Max, look at the written evidence on this years BISC report on the parliament web site to help give you some horror stories regards what ETI can do to tenants & leaseholders
Any short or long term tenancy can mean you invest your cash in a p…ub , improve the top line , make customers happy & work very hard to maintain the standard – in return you get shafted by increased beer prices & rent , made to maintain premises on full repairing lease even though it’s not in great shape to start with  & deal with muppet BRMs – oh and now I just found out you pay for branded glasses they have no budget for them now!
By the way what do you have in your business plan for your profit – please think carefully because the only profit makers are the unmentionables at ETI.
Max, there are well run Pub Co Leases, but the lessees in far too many cases are working themselves in to the ground to make a decent living. The RICS Valuation Group under the Chairmanship of Rob May, Chief Rent Negotiator for Enterprise Inns removed the controls  from the long established Guidelines allowing unjustified claims for FMT and Cherry Picked Comparables, forcing rents to unsustainable… levels and vastly higher freehold values to fund the Pub Co Model.
Rents of up to 33% of T/O were being demanded and achieved without justification, causing the churn , bankruptcy and the Pub Co’s claimed Retailer Failure. We raised these issues to the RICS, May was removed from the Chairmanship, new Guidelines were put in place and rent settlements are now being achieved at between 7-9.5% of T/O, at Arbitration, which gives a value to leases and makes rents viable. But at the moment without going to Arbitration or the serious threat of Arbitration, the Pub Co’s are still trying to perpetuate unsustainable rents. The RICS Surveyors are supposed to be following the new Guidelines, but their interpretation in many cases is highly questionable, that is why we need to get people to Arbitration where they have a justifiable claim, to establish a realistic Rental Norm and gets pubs back to profitability.
If you are contemplating a lease contact me at
Note:-You might like to email this article to Ed Davey ( , Vince Cable and David Cameron, their email contact information is on the Internet, after Davey’s shambolic decisions.

The views expressed are not necessarily the editors and accepts no responsibility 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.


BISC: Brulines is covered by Weights and Measures Act, Barrel Dregs (216)

Please note, access to this site is totally free if you would like to subscribe (No Charge) on, they are free to be read for your guidance and aimed to help you get through a time of considerable pressure and demand.

Barrel-Dregs has been run for many years, we change all the identifiable details, but give you an insight as to many of the sharp or bad practices by a number of companies, in most cases they are just legal but morally unacceptable.

We have a number of Pub owning companies that we will not recommend, their actions have featured in Barrel-Dregs too many times, we did hope that by highlighting their antics they might change, but in Barrel-Dregs terms “Leopards do not change their spots, they cover them with more Mud.”

BISC: Brulines is covered by Weights

and Measures Act

Finally Common Sense has reached the surface in the Brulines farce, anyone with an iota of practical experience knows that a basic flow meter without some very technical additions is never going to differentiate between water, beer and air.

We trust that the Pub Co’s enforcing these fines using flawed or inadequate equipment are going to be forced to pay back their outrageouse fines with suitable grovelling apologies to the honest people that were penalised in the now illegal grabs for cash.

Brulines, the beer flow monitoring equipment, is covered by the Weights and Measures Act if a pub is fined for buying outside the tie, Business Minister Ed Davey confirmed today.

Speaking to the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee (BISC), the minister faced scrutiny on the decision to support self-regulation of the pubco-tenant relationship.

In response to a question from the BISC chairman Adrian Bailey, Davey said previous assurances given to BISC claiming the equipment did not fall within Act was “not completely correct”.

He said the system could fall within the regulations if used as evidence to issue fines against licensees.

He told the BISC: “I am told legally under the Weights and Measures Act, in general, that the Brulines equipment is not in use in trade if it is for monitoring purposes.

“However, I am told now, in general, that when it is used, not just to monitor, but to actually go ahead and fine someone, the act of the fine in general means it is in use for trade.

“And therefore I am happy to inform you that we were incorrect. A fine triggers the fact that the monitoring equipment is in use in trade.”

He confirmed this would mean local trading standards would come “into play”.

We also wonder if Mr Davey is going to back pedal on his naive decision to not follow the recommendations of the BISC.


The views expressed are not necessarily the editors and accepts no responsibility 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.


Pubcos behaving badly, from the pen of Robert Sales, Barrel Dregs (215)

Barrel-dregs 3

Pubcos behaving badly

Like many of you, I was dismayed by the failure of government to endorse a statutory code of practice. Experiences in other sectors, most notably banking and the press, have shown that self regulation is wholly ineffective. In fact in many cases it merely exacerbates the problem by allowing existing abuses to continue unchecked.

The tied pub sector is no different. Let me give you a couple of examples.


Simon recently had an interesting experience with his retail partner.

His pub trades under a Whitbread lease, one which recently came up for renewal. When the new agreement arrived through the post Simon was sensible enough to study the document carefully. As it happens, it’s just as well he did.

Close inspection revealed that his pubco had inserted an additional clause into the agreement, one allowing them to install Brulines equipment in his cellar.

Simon thought this a little odd as the BDM hadn’t mentioned this when they’d spoken the previous week. Clearly someone had made a mistake.

Ringing the pubco he was informed that the clause had been added as part of the “enhanced support package” being offered to tenants.

Simon wasted no time in seeing his solicitor. He was assured that the pubco had no legal grounds to make any changes to the original lease.

Needless to say, Simon contacted his BDM; giving him some suggestions as to what he could do with his enhanced support. He also made it clear that if the clause wasn’t removed from the lease he would take legal action.

A couple of weeks later the new agreement was returned with the necessary amendments made.

So much for the new era of integrity and trust!


Then there’s Dave. He had a similar misunderstanding with his pubco.

Like many tenants, Dave’s pub was badly hit by the downturn. With turnover plummeting, he found it increasingly difficult to keep his nostrils above the waterline.

He contacted his pubco. They carried out a P&L assessment and advised him to sell the lease on.

Desperate to assign before going under, he eventually managed to find a buyer; no small feat given the market. A nominal fee was agreed and Dave passed on the contact details of the prospective purchaser to his BDM.

Dave waited patiently for the pubco to provide a survey and for things to progress; however the weeks passed but nothing happened. Eventually in desperation, Dave contacted the buyer to be told that he’d lost interest and wouldn’t be pursuing the matter any further.

This struck Dave as a little odd. After all, when they’d met he’d seemed very enthusiastic; making it abundantly clear he wished to proceed with the purchase. Several months later with the pub hemorrhaging money, Dave had no option but to surrender his lease.  

Needless to say he paid a heavy price; the pubco retaining both his fixtures and fittings and deposit, citing loss of earnings.

Not content with that, they placed a £25,000 injunction on his house.

A week after moving out of the pub Dave returned, to find the ‘buyer’ standing on the other side of the bar. He’d moved in the day after Dave left.

The new tenant revealed that the pubco had advised him not to pursue his interest; suggesting he wait until they’d repossessed the outlet, thereby enabling him to get it “premium free”.

He went on to explain that the BDM had offered him a “take it or leave it” deal; one which obliged him to purchase fixtures and fittings as well as cover all “reasonable costs” incurred by the pubco.

On the face of it, the deal seemed reasonable as no premium for goodwill was paid. It appeared mutually beneficial to both parties; of course it wasn’t.

Drafting a new agreement enabled the pubco to remove those irksome little clauses, such as guest ale provision and guaranteed barrelage discounts. It also allowed them to raise the rental premium to a level which more adequately reflected the trading potential of the outlet.

Just as importantly, they were not required to undertake a survey or carry out repairs. The arrangement also absolved them of all the legal costs associated with a lease transfer. 

Of course they weren’t required to market the property either; saving themselves a tidy sum in agent’s fees. After all, Dave had already found a tenant for them.

Dave’s experience illustrates one rather unpalatable fact. There is often little incentive for pubcos to adopt a proactive stance when it comes to lease assignments.

In fact it is often in their interest to obstruct and delay; knowing full well that time is of the essence for many struggling tenants.

Like some predatory beast, they are content to merely sit back and wait for the tenant to go under, secure in the knowledge that rich pickings await. 

And what of Dave?

He’s lost everything and is due to appear in court shortly, unsure as to whether or not he will be able to keep his house.

Now I’d like to say that the experiences of Simon and Dave are isolated incidents; unfortunately all the evidence is to the contrary. 

A number of tenants have contacted me citing similar experiences. One commentator I spoke to lamented that such unsavoury practices are now “rife in the trade”. What does this say about an industry that appears powerless to prevent pubcos treating their tenants so appallingly?

It is clear that such companies have no interest in restoring trust and integrity into the pubco /tenant relationship. How can they when such ideals are so incompatible with the need to service debt?

This is why government intervention was so important. Implementing a statutory code of practice would have reined in the abuses of certain pubcos and empowered tenants, offering then a mechanism to counter such shameful malpractice. 

We have heard much from politicians about their vision of a utopia, the ‘Big Society’. Their decision to ignore the recommendations of the Select Committee illustrate the extent such proclamations amount to nothing more than meaningless, empty gestures.

Simon, Dave and countless others like them have every reason to feel betrayed.  

Robert Sayles


The views expressed are not necessarily the editors and accepts no responsibility 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.


Alliance Online Catering Equipment – suppliers of Pub and Bar Equipment to the Licensed Industry


“They Walk among Us”, Barrel Dregs (214)

Barrel-dregs 3

Please note, access to this site is totally free if you would like to subscribe (No Charge) on, they are free to be read for your guidance and aimed to help you get through a time of considerable pressure and demand.

Barrel-Dregs has been run for many years, we change all the identifiable details, but give you an insight as to many of the sharp or bad practices by a number of companies, in most cases they are just legal but morally unacceptable.

We have a number of Pub owning companies that we will not recommend, their actions have featured in Barrel-Dregs too many times, we did hope that by highlighting their antics they might change, but in Barrel-Dregs terms “Leopards do not change their spots, they cover them with more Mud.”

Enterprise Inns, Cost Cutting.

Times are obviously very tough not only for us but EI. I am currently in negotiation with EI regarding an early surrender of my lease (8 weeks early to be precise).
They have agreed that we can go early and sent us a letter to sign as an attachment to an email. I refused to sign requesting a hard copy of the said letter in the post upon which I could take legal advice.
A senior member of the BII intervened and he told me the surrender letter would be in the post that was two weeks ago and still not arrived.
I chased the matter up with my BDM on Friday.
The conversation went like this “Can you please let me have the hard copy of the surrender letter I requested” yes was the reply “I will drop it in on my way home from work but it will just be the copy that was the attachment on plain paper not on letterhead”.
I said it should be on letterhead as it was an important document.
The reply to that was “Because of cost cutting exercises EI did not send anything out on letterhead anymore”. I was absolutely stunned.
I then spoke to the BII who immediately emailed the BDM’s boss and surprisingly after the offer from the BII to pay for the printing costs of the two pieces of paper he returned my call stating that he would be sending out a letter on headed paper after all.

The views expressed are not necessarily the editors and accepts no responsibility 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.