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Sunday, 28 April 2013

The true face of pubco greed

The Caledonia, Liverpool
The Caledonia on Catharine Street, Liverpool, has been sold by its owners, the pub company Admiral Taverns, to a property developer who has given the licensee, Laura King, 28 days' notice to quit. Neither she nor her staff had any idea that the pub was up for sale; it was surreptitiously done behind their backs. She will be jobless and homeless and seven staff will also be out of work. The Caledonia is a successful real ale pub that has also a place in the local live music scene; it was "short listed for Live Music venue of the year at the 2012 Liverpool Music Awards and has become the home of Liverpool's vibrant Americana and bluegrass scene." (Liverpool Confidential) In fact Laura has turned the pub around in three years from a failing pub full of "drug takers and scallies" (in her words) to the successful and popular local it is today. It's a pub I like to visit when I'm in that part of the city.

So why it it being sold? Simply because its owners were made "an offer that couldn't be refused". It is not entirely clear who the buyers are, but it seems certain that they don't intend to keep it open as a pub. The pubco's website states: "Admiral Taverns understands that developing great business partnerships with our licensees is the only way to build success. We recognise that our pubs will only thrive and prosper in their communities if we attract passionate people to run them, and then give them all the support they need to maximise their success." And then, once they have maximised their success, chuck them out with 28 days' notice as long as the price is right: 30 pieces of silver, I expect. Laura, who is 28, said, "It's such a shame as a young person who's built up a business which is now in profit for the first time in a long time, to have all that taken away.” 

There can be no mistake here: this pub is not closing because it's failing, or because of supermarket prices, the smoking ban, or any other of the usual reasons given. It is closing because of pubco greed, pure and simple. The sick joke here is that on its website, Admiral Taverns boasted in March that it had been awarded Pub Company of the Year at the Publican Awards, which are hosted by the main pub trade magazine, the Morning Advertiser. While they were raising glasses to celebrate their award, they were cheerfully negotiating the destruction of one their own pubs.

More details in Liverpool Confidential here.

P.S. (30 April): further news on this story in the Liverpool Echo.

P.P.S. (4 May): save the pub website and petition here.

3 comments:

  1. An appaling story which shows, yet again, how Pubcos treat their tenants with utter contempt and even penalise them for being successful.

    My heart goes out to this lady, who has done everything right, and through sheer hard work and determination has turned a failing pub around and built a successful and thriving business, only to have the rug pulled out from under her feet. Leaving aside the extremely dubious ethics of the pub company, 28 days notice seems very harsh. Does she have any right of appeal against this?

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  2. I suspect not as the pub has now been sold. 28 days was the minimum notice in the contract she had with the pubco, although it would have been less brutal if they'd given more than the minimum. She's being careful not to do any corporate bashing; I suppose she doesn't want to gain a reputation for being a trouble maker. Defending your livelihood and home isn't trouble making in my book, but I expect industry managers may take a different view.

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  3. to make it worse nev, lauras last day in the pub is exactly 3 years after she took it over. Laura turned that pub from somewhere where you wouldnt go in without bodyguards, to a friendly, inviting place, with excellently kept beer. its a crying shame.

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