News & Views – November 2019

PUBS CODE REVIEW

Submissions to the statutory review closed on 22 July but there is currently no indication from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) as to when the report will be laid before Parliament. The ‘Introduction to contribute’ document says that, in line with principles laid down by the Cabinet Office, ‘responses to consultations should be published within 12 weeks of the consultation closing’. That made it the middle of October. Anyone seen anything? This, from the same document, is what we can expect:

•the extent to which, in the Secretary of State’s opinion, the Pubs Code is consistent with the principles set out in section 42(3);

•any revisions of the Pubs Code which, in the Secretary of State’s opinion, would enable the Pubs Code to reflect more fully those principles;

•how effective the Adjudicator has been in enforcing the Pubs Code;

•whether it would be desirable to amend or replace the regulations setting out fees, costs and financial penalties under Sections 51(2) or (7) or 58(6); and

•whether the Secretary of State intends to give guidance to the Pubs Code Adjudicator under Section 65 or if he intends to use the powers in Section 66 (abolition of the Adjudicator).

The Pubs Code Adjudicator, Peter Newby, who leaves his post next May, met the CAMRA National Executive and Regional Directors on Saturday 16 November. See page 27. In the meantime the Deputy Pubs Code Adjudicator, Fiona Dickie, has been reappointed for a further two years from 1 November.

CHANGE OF MINISTER

Although the incumbent is part of the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG), presumably the Pubs Minister will have some input into the above. At this crucial time, there has been a change of post holder. The Viscount Younger of Leckie, to give him his full title, has stood down because of his close relationship with the brewing industry. Ironically, he has never worked in it but he does understand it. Responsibility has passed to his fellow MHCLG minister, Luke Hall. Mr Hall is the MP for Thornbury & Yate in Gloucestershire. Happily the They Work for Us website reports that ‘Luke Hall voted for requiring pub companies to offer pub landlords rent-only leases, while most Conservative MPs generally voted against’.

NEW CHIEF FOR THE BBPA

The British Beer and Pubs Association (BBPA), the trade organisation for the pub owning businesses, have announced that their new chief executive will be Emma McClarkin, an expert in political communications. She was a Conservative Member of the European Parliament for ten years and is described as being ‘a true beer lover’, having been a Vice President of the European Parliament Beer Club during her tenure as a MEP. Ms McClarkin told Hospitality & Catering News, “The great British pub is an institution; it provides a home for the amazing beers we brew in the UK as well as a hub for local produce and local people. The industry is a showcase for innovation and how business can contribute to society and I’m looking forward to telling that story in my new role. I’m excited to be leading the BBPA as it continues to make sure that this great community asset is protected, that British beer continues to be revered on the national and international stage, and that our industry is recognised for the amazing contribution it makes to the economy and the social fabric of Britain.”

Her predecessor, Brigid Simmonds OBE (for services to sport) gave the Morning Advertiser a long valedictory interview which included the following, “I’m not a person who believes we can keep every pub open. Demographics are changing and there are historic pubs in places that cannot support them. I’m always saying to people who want to protect pubs in their local area, ‘don’t protect pubs artificially’. If you’ve got two pubs in an area, both which are struggling, if you try to keep them both open they’ll inevitably both close. In some places we can’t support every pub and need to be realistic, but I still think good pubs are doing well. We now serve one billion meals a year in pubs, we’ve got 50,000 bedrooms and we’ve got pubs that serve local food, local beer, they’re iconic and fascinating and people still want to go to them so let’s keep those pubs going. But, if you don’t go to the pub you will lose them.”

Just a thought for Ms McClarkin. It is now common practice for high street retailers experiencing financial problems to ask their landlords for a reduction in rent. Pub owning businesses however still persist in maximising the rent that they charge their tenants. Apart from the obvious answer, greed, why?

FINANCE

I had hoped to avoid mentioning the general election but one of its consequences was the cancellation of the budget due on 6 November in which action on business rates had been anticipated. CAMRA’s National Chairman, Nik Antona, said the sector was overpaying about £500 million every year because pubs pay 2.8% of the business rates bill but only account for 0.5% of total business turnover. There is hope however. The House of Commons Treasury Select Committee has issued a report which says that the system is ‘broken’ with rates for high street businesses, such as pubs, being unfairly calculated. They have asked the Government to come up with alternatives in time for the Spring Statement. Furthermore, there may be some action on alcohol duty. The Prime Minister said that there would be a commitment to this in his party’s manifesto. The announcement was made when visiting a whisky distillery but the review will be across the board. Nik Antona again, “Action on duty is needed to encourage people to drink in pubs, which are supervised community settings, rather than buying cheap alcohol in supermarkets and consuming it at home. We welcome this commitment to review alcohol duty. Should it go ahead, we hope it will result in measures that benefit responsible beer drinkers.” UKHospitality said that they would like to see a separate rate for draught beer, wine and spirits sold in pubs, bars and restaurants. This is something that CAMRA would support as well.

MAID OF HONOUR

This is absolutely nothing to do with the politics involved but I was annoyed to see that the fact that Baroness Hale had once been a barmaid was used in an attempt to discredit the Supreme Court’s controversial ‘Brexit’ judgement. This

is not only insulting to her personally but also to everyone – of any gender – who works in our pubs. Bar staff make just as big a contribution to the nation’s well-being as do politicians and journalists; possibly more so. Also the pejorative and misogynistic way in which ‘barmaid’ has been used illustrates that, as I said in last edition’s editorial, we still have a way to go.

MORE LAW

The Armistice Brewing Company of Richmond, California, have upset the British baking star, Mary Berry. They had concocted a ‘pastry stout’ (10.4% ABV) made with chocolate, vanilla and an unfeasibly large amount of raspberry purée, and named it after her. Ms Berry however was not amused and the brewery were immediately in receipt of a ‘cease and desist’ notice from her lawyers. Their reaction was to put stickers over the contentious words and images and carry on selling it as ‘Cease and Desistberry Pastry Stout’. What is not clear is whether Ms Berry objected to the infringement of her image rights or the recipe for the beer.

HOW LONG?

I’m sure that many readers saw the story about Humphrey Smith, owner of the Samuel Smith Brewery, peremptorily closing one of their pubs early in October. Well, at least that pub had been open. Smith’s bought a pub, the Lower Ship, in Reading sometime in the 1980s and although they have kept it licensed, it has never opened. Smith’s own 37 pubs in London so have a significant presence. Sadly, far too few of them serve real ale.

SYD’S BEER

To add to my comments in the last edition, By The Horns brewery, where Syd Bennett was a regular at the tap room, have produced a commemorative beer in his honour. It is called Banjo Syd and is a 4.1% ABV rye amber ale. I’m pleased to confirm that the Jazzers are indeed still going strong and can usually be found in the Sultan, South Wimbledon, on the last Sunday of the month (4 to 7pm).

IT’S NOT JUST PUBS…

According to a news item I saw somewhere on ‘social media’, the number of restaurants in the UK fell by 3.4% in the year to June. This equates to 18 closures per week. Most affected were Chinese restaurants at 7.3%, although there may be structural reasons for that with a generation of owners reaching retirement age. Chinese take-aways are however still doing well.
Compiled, except where credited, by Tony Hedger