Thursday, 5 June 2014

"Great News!" it says here . . .

A pub tie, yesterday
I've received two ecstatic e-mails today from CAMRA declaring: "Great News! Thousands of licensees will be protected from unfair business practices in the pub industry and our nation's pubs protected following today’s [3 June] Government announcement which unveils plans for a Pubs Adjudicator and Statutory Code."

These are steps in the right direction, certainly, but I seem to be having a feeling of déjà vu. I recall CAMRA being equally rapturous when the Beer Orders were announced. At the time I simply couldn't help wondering who was going to buy all these pubs that the big breweries were going to dispose of. Both CAMRA and the government expressed the expectation that many licensees would take the chance to invest in their pub and convert them into free houses. With thousands more free houses, the range of beers would improve and everyone's a winner. But it didn't happen: we got pub companies instead.

CAMRA states: "Publicans could see the price they pay for beer fall by up to 60p a pint if the new Adjudicator forces the big Pub Cos to match open market prices. As a result we could see cheaper pub prices for customers, more investment in pubs and ultimately fewer pub closures."

Well, I hope that's true, but I have some reservations. Pub Cos are ripping off tenants because they are horrendously debt-ridden, with massive loans taken out when finance was good, but leaving them in a bad situation to cope with the current recession. If the Adjudicator does crack down on sky-high rents and beer prices charged by the big pub companies, the question is: what impact will that have on the Pub Co business? Will they be able to survive? If not, what will happen to pubs suddenly cast adrift? Few licensees would wish to buy their businesses, assuming they could afford to, so would the newly freed pub estate get hoovered up by supermarket - or indeed other retail - chains? I can't see any saviours waiting in the wings.

I've little sympathy for Pub Cos, as they brought their current precarious financial state upon themselves, but I do hope we are not sleepwalking into another disaster of Beer Orders proportions.

9 comments:

  1. Indeed - most business commentators seem to think this will lead to more pub closures and disposals.

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  2. CAMRA appear very fond of all manner of regulation, and often with good reasons. They want to keep pubs and keep the historical ones preserved.

    Each one of these regulations may stop of a current owner from doing what they like but it also makes pubs less attractive to buy and invest in.

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  3. Well, yes, keeping a nice, carved old bar and cosy nooks and crannies isn't really consistent with running a Tesco Express, but my point is more that CAMRA seems heedless of the possibility of unintended consequences. Especially as it's not the first time.

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  4. That's because they have to many lefties in their ranks, Nev.

    People that mistrust and don't really understand capitalism.

    They need a drive to weed out the socialists.

    That'll fix 'em.

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  5. I'd agree that some Lefties don't understand capitalism. They ought to, even if it's only on a "know your enemy" basis.

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  6. Way it is, mate. I did some googling of the beard club and figured a chap called fatty spence is the guy that does the recruitment. I wrote him a letter. I said you need a different tack, mate. Instead of dragging in old beardie guardian readers you want some fresh blood. Why not stick poster up with "No lefties, socialists, pinkos or trots" and ask new recruits to kiss a picture of Lady Thatch. Then you'd get more right thinkers like the lad Mudge. People that understand the truth about smokin' tabs and boozers.

    Never even got the courtesy of a reply. It's doomed this CAMRA milarky, I'm tellin' ya. Heading towards irrelevance.

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  7. "We're doomed!" - Cooking Lager, the Private Frazer of beer blogging!

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  8. You are right to be cautious, Nev. I also remember the euphoria which greeted the Beer Orders, back in 1989 and the feeling that this was the start of a brave new world of un-rivalled choice for beer drinkers.

    Of course, we all know what happened, and are still living with the consequences today. I hope I'm wrong, and the law of unintended consequences won't apply, but we've been down this road before. Be careful what you wish for, and all that!

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  9. Hi Nev,
    Good to see you back.On another note I see they've increased the beer prices in time for the world cup at Bold Arms in Churchtown.Any other pubs doing the same?Hey ho think I'll stay in and drink some vino.
    Ernesto

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