News and views – September 2020

LONDON IS OPEN

A large number of chief executives of hospitality industry companies have written to both the Prime Minister and the Mayor of London asking for ‘clear, consistent messaging to give assurance and diminish fear’ to bring both workers and tourists back to London. The drop in tourism alone will cost London’s economy £12 billion, according to Visit Britain’s latest forecast for 2020, as quoted in the Morning Advertiser. Part of the letter said, “Only a coordinated approach that puts politics to one side and focuses on building confidence will deliver the strong and desperately needed message that London is open for Londoners, commuters and leisure visitors. The current speed of progress in conveying that message will see businesses fail and the triggering of an economic downward spiral. We urge you to work with us on an ambitious and strategic plan of action to secure London’s future and a safe return to growth.”
One of the chief executives who signed the letter was Simon Emeny of Fuller’s. He added, “We need to create an environment where we are giving people permission to go back out again and enjoy the delights that London as a capital city has. Until that happens, whether it is in pubs, restaurants or cafes, it is going to be very difficult for people to contemplate opening in central London.”

FAIR COMMENT

On 28 August, the Metro newspaper ran an article headed ‘Fear on the Front Line’, with a by-line saying ‘Assaults on emergency workers soar 31% in month after pubs allowed to reopen’. The article itself does not mention a single incident involving a pub.

CARLSBERG MARSTON JOINT VENTURE

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has agreed to carry out a preliminary investigation into the proposal for Carlsberg and Marston’s to merge their brewing operations. Tom Stainer, CAMRA’s Chief Executive said, “CAMRA is pleased that the CMA has listened to our calls and opened an initial investigation into the proposed Carlsberg Marston’s Brewing Company. We will now be asking the CMA to move to a full investigation, given our serious concerns about anti-competitive effects of the Joint Venture, including market foreclosure for small brewers, which will reduce choice for beer drinkers and pub–goers. This is why the CMA must make sure that any merger does not stifle fair competition, access to market for brewers, and ensure decent consumer choice of beer in pubs up and down the country.” The move is supported by the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) whose chief executive, James Calder, told the Morning Advertiser, “It has the potential to take the Marston’s brand global and brings Carlsberg into the distribution and porterage business only after a few short years of leaving it. This merger, yet again, has the potential to impact negatively on small independent brewers by reducing the access to market they receive.”

THE PRICE OF A PINT

A report in CAMRA’s monthly newspaper, What’s Brewing, says that the average cost of a pint in the UK has risen by 6% to £3.94 from £3.70 in 2019. This was based on the Finder.com cost-of-a-pint survey. London remains the most expensive city for drinking in the UK, with beer costing £5.19 per pint on average. Brighton isn’t far off at £5.02 per pint. In third place is Cambridge at £4.91 per pint. The cheapest pint can be found in Dundee, at just £3.08 per pint. The next cheapest are Swansea at £3.12 and Perth at £3.14.

WFP (WORKING FROM THE PUB)

Now here’s a thought . . . A survey quoted in the Morning Advertiser at the beginning of September said that 29% of workers in central London had returned to work full time and a further 22% had returned part time. Furthermore, the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) has estimated that, between March and June, the loss to London’s pubs, restaurants and food outlets because of people working from home was some £2.3 billion. A handful of people however, once they reopened, chose to work from a pub or restaurant, having been used to doing so before lockdown. I recall that BrewDog were experimenting with this with their ‘DeskDog’ project. I wonder if by creating a half way space between working from home and the office might be a way forward for some venues.

STRANGE TIMES

About the same time as we went to print with the last edition, it was reported that there had been a robbery at the Southampton Arms in Kentish Town, CAMRA’s London Regional Pub of the Year in 2011. Thieves took the till but, as the pub had been ‘card only’ since reopening, the till was empty. This would be funny were it not for members of staff being threatened with a knife and a bike chain. It must have been terrifying and we hope that they have recovered from the shock.

The need to use cards isn’t just a COVID hygiene measure. Many banks have cut their hours and services available so it isn’t easy for publicans to obtain cash floats and bank their takings. Inevitably, this then leads to card frauds. One such I heard of involved the use of software on a mobile ‘phone to create a bogus refund. Quite how it works, I can’t explain but bar staff should look out for customers who take the card machine and place it on top of their mobile ‘phone.

AND FINALLY…

My thanks to my good friend Michael Howard for spotting this entry on WhatPub: ‘Reopening Saturday 4th July. Booing required to sit inside’. I’m sure that the staff are doing their best. . .
Tony Hedger

You can find up to date news posts from CAMRA London Region’s Twitter account on the regional website.