The rate of pub closures has slowed since two or three years ago, but that's not really good news as it means we're still losing pubs. I gave my views on this 18 months ago (you can read what I wrote here if you want) and don't intend to cover old ground, but the latest issue of Private Eye has suggested another one: Brulines. These monitor the amount of beer dispensed, and if they show that the pub has dispensed more beer than it has bought from the PubCo, the tenant is fined for breaking the terms of their tenancy agreement as it is assumed that they have bought the excess elsewhere. These fines amount to millions of pounds per year and are an additional burden on already struggling pubs, and may be enough to tip some into closure.
The Brulines website states: "Our core product, Dispense Monitoring, records the exact volume of liquid that passes to each fount at any minute, of any hour, on any day." The problem is that, despite this confident claim, more than 400 tests by the National Weights and Measures Office failed to produce a single precise reading. An error rate of 7% either way was common, and one test was 23% out. Despite this, PubCos treat Brulines as though they are reliably accurate.
Several tenants are taking their PubCos to court over the issue (there's an article in The Publican here). I wish them every success but I do wonder whether such inaccuracies would tolerated by the government in any other industry where products are measured and sold in bulk, such as milk or flour? Official unconcern about this scandal to me is symptomatic of the antipathy that our rulers have always had towards the pub trade, an attitude that goes back centuries. I'm certain that they take the view that it might be unfair, but if it closes pubs, they'll tolerate it