News & Views – May 2019

HAPPY COINCIDENCE

I am informed that this year National Beer Day (15 June) and Father’s Day (16 June) fall over the same weekend. Now there is an opportunity for some resourceful publicans.

GLA LOOKING TO BOOST CULTURAL INFRASTRUCTURE

As part of his plans for the culture and creative industries sector, the Mayor of London is appointing a GLA staff member to protect and help grow London’s cultural infrastructure, including music venues, community assets, theatres, artist studios, pubs, LGBT+ spaces, night clubs and heritage buildings. This will include actual casework on ‘at risk’ cases in conjunction with local authority planning, licensing, regeneration and culture teams, community and voluntary organisations, businesses, other GLA teams, TfL, the Police, Historic England, the Theatres Trust and the Music Venue Trust. Sadly, it is too late for readers to apply because the closing date was 26 May.

NIGHT-TIME ECONOMY IMPROVES

According to the latest Deltic Night Index, as reported in the Morning Advertiser, in the first quarter of 2019 average consumer spend on a night out (6pm to 6am) increased in real terms by 15.5%. The length of time that people spent on nights out also increased. Most people rely on personal recommendations for venues and 70% of those questioned said that their main reason for going out was to meet up with friends. Despite the increased spend, half of those questioned thought that a night out was still too expensive.

LATE NIGHT LEVY REVIEW

The Police and Crime Act 2017 included amendments to the way that Late Night Levies (LNLs) operate. These included extending the levy to premises selling refreshments but not alcohol and allowing local authorities to impose the levy on specific parts of their area, rather than the whole. These have yet to come into effect though, and the Home Office has decided that further consultation is required. No timescale for this has however been announced. This follows a House of Lords Select Committee saying that the levy in its current form had failed to achieve its objectives and should be abolished.

As reported in the last edition, the boroughs of Southwark and Redbridge have announced that they will be consulting on the introduction of a LNL, to be introduced in September and October 2019 respectively.

IN A SPIN

Here is another example of the additional costs faced by pubs and bars. Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL) have introduced a new tariff called SFE (Specially Featured Entertainment) which covers events that feature recorded music presented by disc jockeys and discos. The cost is estimated to be increasing by 130%. Kate Nicholls, the chief executive of UKHospitality pointed out, “It is not just nightclubs and large venues that will be hit, either. Village pubs that host weekly discos will be strangled by the charge and there is every chance that such events, upon which many pubs might rely, will be forced out altogether.” Then again, it is hard to deny the musicians involved decent royalties for their work.

HACKNEY RESTRICTIONS

Hackney’s revised Statement of Licensing Policy (SLP), under which new venues must close at 11pm on weekdays and midnight at weekends and not permit outside drinking after 10pm, is being challenged by a residents’ group called We Love Hackney. The group has been granted an application for judicial review of the policy; the hearing is awaited. WLH has raised more than £20,000 through crowdfunding to cover its legal costs but the eventual bill may be more than double that.

ON THE CARDS

An increasing number of pubs are now going cashless, accepting only debit and credit cards for payments from customers. At least one pub chain in north London has taken this option. I can sympathise. The charges levied by the banks for supplying cash and change are ridiculous for what is essentially drawing out your own money and there is also the question of security. Night safes are now few and far between and no-one wants to leave the cash takings overnight in a lock-up pub (no doubt a ‘Trojan horse’ conversion). My concern is that the customer is properly forewarned. There need to be notices on the outside of the pub. It would be very bad practice if a customer ordered, was served and only then was told ‘card only’. That can only lead to bad feeling.

MINIMUM PRICING INTRODUCED IN WALES

The Welsh Government has announced that it will introduce minimum unit pricing for alcohol at a 50p minimum unit price. Brigid Simmonds, the chief executive of British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), said, “We look to the Welsh Government to provide clarity as to how and when MUP will be implemented. The BBPA has always been concerned about imposing conditions which penalise responsible drinkers and there is no denying that this decision will cause uncertainty, but what is important now is that industry is given a break from any further blanket regulations. This will also allow MUP to be properly assessed as a policy to reduce alcohol-related harm.”

At CAMRA’s recent members’ Weekend, a motion was passed calling on its National Executive to campaign for the urgent introduction of minimum unit pricing for England (with provisos on the maximum amount per unit).

NUMBER OF NEW BREWERIES FALLS

A survey by finance analysts UHY Hacker Young, as reported in the Morning Advertiser, indicates that the craft brewery boom is slowing up. 179 new breweries opened in 2016 and 395 in 2017, but in 2018 there were just eight. At the same time, there is concern that many beer drinkers are not aware that what they think are craft beers brewed by small breweries in fact come from the multinationals. SIBA, the Society of Independent Brewers, recently conducted a survey which showed that 98% of the consumers contacted thought that a beer brewed by any major brewer could not be ‘craft’, 43% of them believed that a craft beer could only be made by a small brewery and 42% said that a craft brewer must be independent.

SIBA do however have an ‘Assured Independent British Craft Brewer’ logo which its members can put on their products and this certifies that the beer comes from a ‘truly independent brewer who is a sole trader, a partnership, a limited company or a public company but is not a subsidiary of a larger firm with attendant or other subsidiary brewing interests.’

NATIONAL BEER

I have news of a new outlet for small breweries. The National Theatre has a craft beer bar, the Understudy, but this has now been joined by a pop-up bar in a shipping container called the Otherstudy. It is located on the riverside outside the NT and will host a programme of 21 weekly tap residencies from breweries across the country.

PLASTIC RINGS

The campaigning group 38 Degrees has opened a petition calling on the brewing trade to end the use of the plastic rings that are used to hold together multi-pack cans of beer and cider. As they say, these fill up landfills, kill wildlife and pollute oceans and it is unnecessary because there are environmentally friendly alternatives that breweries could use. Indeed, Guinness have already announced that they will be changing to using cardboard sleeves and others, but not all, are expected to follow. In mid-April the petition already has 175,000 signatures and 38 Degrees were planning to hand it in when it reached 200,000.

CAMRA PUB HERITAGE WEBSITE

I’m pleased to report that, after a long period of technical problems, CAMRA’s Pub Heritage website is back up and running. It is accessible to all, not just CAMRA members. If you like pubs, you will find this site fascinating. You can search for individual pubs or by areas if you want to find places to visit on your holidays. Go to pubheritage.camra.org.uk.

EARLY DOORS

Works to widen the A14 between Cambridge and Huntingdon have revealed several interesting archaeological finds, including a woolly mammoth tusk, a forgotten medieval village, some ancient burial grounds and evidence of what could possibly be the first beer brewed in Britain. Evidence dating back to the Iron Age (400BC) has been found along with signs of porridge and bread making. Quoted in the Shropshire Star, Dr Steve Sherlock, the project’s lead archaeologist, said, “It’s a well-known fact that ancient populations used the beer-making process to purify water and create a safe source of hydration but this is potentially the earliest physical evidence of that process taking place in the UK.” As beer writer Roger Protz commented, East Anglia is the source of some of the best brewing barley in the world.

Compiled by Tony Hedger