News extra

Here, in no particular order, are some items that arrived after the editorial deadline:

Carlton Tavern, Kilburn

Given its history, I don’t want to tempt fate here but there are some very positive reports circulating. There will be more in the next edition or you may be able to find out yourselves on 12 April.

(c) Carlton Tavern

Ealing Beer Festival

Sadly, Ealing, scheduled for July, can now be added to the list of cancelled festivals. The organisers are considering their options for an event later in the year. They will post updates on their website and social media accounts.

Judicial Review on Opening Date for Pubs

Sacha Lord, the Night-time Economy Adviser for Greater Manchester has joined Hugh Osmond, the founder of Punch Taverns, in instigating a judicial review of the Government’s decision to delay the reopening of pubs until after the reopening of non-essential shops. Mr Lord has already had some success with his action over the ‘substantial meals’ requirement (see page 10). Although pubs with gardens and outside areas can reopen on 12 April, the same time as non-essential shops, the action is intended to protect those pubs which cannot and have to wait until 17 May. It was reported in the Morning Advertiser that the pair wrote to the Government on 12 March, giving them notice to supply ‘evidence or justification for the prioritisation of non-essential retail over hospitality’ by 17 March but no satisfactory response was received and so the matter will now go to the High Court. Mr Lord made the point that, “Operators have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds creating indoor COVID secure environments, as advised by ministers themselves and we firmly believe these regulated, ventilated venues have much safer measures and greater social distancing in place than retail stores. This is not a hospitality versus retail argument, but Government decisions must operate on a level playing field and be supported by evidence. We currently see no clear justification for the delay.”

Further Extension to Commercial Evictions Moratorium

On 10 March, the Housing and Communities Secretary, Robert Jenrick, announced that the ban on commercial landlords (including pub owning businesses) taking legal action to recover rent arrears would be extended from 31 March to 30 June. This includes actions to have tenants declared insolvent. It is welcome but most pubs are unlikely to make enough money between 12 April or 17 May and 30 June to pay off their debts. As I have said before, it is simply ‘kicking the can down the road’. As reported in the Morning Advertiser, once again, Mr Jenrick said that rent is one of the costs intended to be covered by the Government’s various support grants and loans. He added that the Government’s hope is that business landlords and tenants will be able to reach mutual agreements to pay or write off rent debts by 30 June, something that the Government will support and, if necessary, legislate upon.

Small Brewers’ Relief

As mentioned in the previous edition, the Government have issued their technical consultation and the closing date for submissions is 4 April. CAMRA’s Campaigns Committee has asked CAMRA branches to contribute their views. I am not expecting the outcome to be known in time for our next edition.

Marston’s

Further to the main report on page 30, Marston’s have now acquired the freehold interest of eight of the 156 pubs which they leased from Brains. Details of the pubs have not been released but Marston’s have confirmed that they are to be converted into long lease franchises. I wonder if these were tenancies that ran out of time and money.

It was announced on 11 March that Ralph Findlay, who has been Marston’s chief executive for twenty years, will be leaving at the end of September. No successor has yet been appointed. There was no report on Mr Findlay’s own future plans but it is unlikely that he will be leaving the business; perhaps he is going to start a pub company as well.

Turning The Tide

Readers may recall that in the last edition (page 19) I mentioned that Gabriele Bertucci’s What’s in the Glass project, a digital community for the hospitality and beer industry, was producing a series of 25 minute films documenting London’s beer culture during the pandemic. The release dates for the five episodes have now been confirmed. They are 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29 April. They can be viewed at www.youtube.com/WhatsInTheGlass.

Parliamentary Inquiry into Cask Beer

The All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group (APPBG) is to conduct an inquiry into the future of cask beer in the UK and has invited interested businesses, organisations, and individuals to submit evidence. The closing date was 31 March. They will then produce a report containing recommendations for the Government. The chair of the APPBG, Mike Wood, the MP for Dudley South, said, “Real Ale is unique to the UK, central to our brewing heritage, and extraordinarily dependent on pubs for its sales. The lockdown caused an unprecedented fall in volumes, which were down over 60% in 2020. This has had a widespread impact, as for many brewers cask ale makes up a large proportion of their output. The revival of sales is vital to their commercial future and we want to understand how best this can be ensured. The fortunes of cask beer are dependent on two things: pubs reopening successfully and consumers being confident that it’s safe to go out. We look forward to hearing from operators on the pressures they face, and to considering what actions will best enable cask beer to recover from this national crisis.” The APPBG has strong links with the larger breweries and pub owning businesses (see https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmallparty/190213 /beer.htm) and so it will be interesting to see what they come up with.