Posts Tagged ‘pubcos’

Death of the pub and the rise of coffee shops

January 1, 2018

Has the pub had its day, can it be replaced with something better?

According to a snippet on ITV News at the tail end of last year looking at the reopening of a pub, closed for a year, now reopened owned by the community, 29 pubs a week are closing.

If this figure is correct, and not simply regurgitating old statistics, then rate of pub closures as was several years ago. Actually the closure rate accelerating, four years ago it was 26 pubs a week.

Why? Why are pubs closing at an accelerating rate?

Pubcos are one cause of pub closure. These are property owning companies, zombie companies that make no money, can barely service their debt by screwing pub landlords and selling off assets, have large property holdings in pubs. They charge unaffordable rents, landlords are forced to buy drinks through the pubco well in excess of market rate, the landlord goes bankrupt, along comes the next mug to be fleeced of their life savings, or the pub if occupying a prime site sold off for redevelopment.

Pubcos are the classic example of extend and pretend. The banks keep them afloat. Kept afloat they can be listed on the balance sheet as an asset, when in reality they should be on the opposite side and would be if allowed to go bankrupt. There is no realistic possibility of loan repayment.

We also have an example of the Law of Unintended Consequences.

Pubs were owned by breweries. The pub forced to buy from the brewery. The punter left with little or no choice, price hikes, especially if the brewery maintains a local monopoly.

The breweries were stripped of their pubs.

What should have happened, landlords bought the pubs, ran as independent businesses free of the brewery tie. Unfortunately this did not happen. Property developers, the pubcos, borrowed heavily and bought the pubs.

For a brewery, a common interest with the pub in doing well. The more beer the pub sells, the more beer the brewery sells.

For the pubco, no common interest. If the pub closes, find another fool to part from their money or sell off for redevelopment.

Pubcos though are only part of the story.

Too many pubs are badly run, very badly run. They are not pleasant places to be. Noisy, dirty, moronic music blasting out, widescreen TV, pub quizzes, drunken loud mouth idiots, rude and bored bar staff wishing they were elsewhere, serving disgusting rubbish from a global conglomerate chemical factory.

Too many examples could be given. But to list a few. A pub that served excellent, if expensive meals, changes to serving disgusting food but still overpriced; a pub where it was possible to sit in the back courtyard, relax over lunch, clueless new landlord takes over, insults the chef, chef leaves, where once excellent food, choice now burger burger or burger, illegal structures built in the courtyard, goes down market, noise and nuisance alienates neighbours and local council; historic pubs, heritage buildings, destroyed by inappropriate developments; a pub where is was pleasant to sit by the river, until smokers took over — the list is endless.

I have not named the pubs, but others could easily write similar lists, and some will know the pubs I am talking about.

Why have no lessons been learnt from Tim Martin and Wetherspoon? I am no fan of Wetherspoon, or the food they serve, but at least they try, they serve real ale. A pity they insult coffee drinkers and serve LavAzza coffee, even worse from a  machine.

But have the audacity to say pubs badly run, and the pissed trolls emerge from under their bar stools to add their ill-informed two-penny worth. And this included an abusive Camra regional official. A bit like being in a pub.

What we are seeing is an example of postcapitalism. The economy goes one of two ways.

  1. Serfs working for apps, eg Deliveroo and Uber, low paid part time temporary soul destroying McShit jobs, eg bar work, companies like Wagamama and the coffee chains.
  2. Open coops, collaborative commons, sharing society.

If pubs are to have a future, and looking at the current crisis, this is doubtful, pubcos have to be stripped of their pubs, as was the breweries, run free of tie, run as open coops, and far better managed than too many are currently.

Indie coffee shops are rapidly becoming the third place, the place to be to relax, not work, not home.

A well run indie artisan coffee shop, pleasant ambience, clean, art on the walls, live music, acoustic, jazz, classical, people sat chatting with friends, or sat reading a book or working on a laptop, craft beer, quality food and wine, books to browse, and of course serving excellent speciality coffee. And for lone females, added advantage of not being sexually harassed.

It is somewhat ironic, more likely to find craft beer, wine worth drinking, in a coffee shop than in a pub.

Warehouse Speciality Blends is known for its wine, The Underdog for craft beer,  Taylor Made for its cocktails,  Just Made 33 for its food. All serve speciality coffee, either roast their own beans or source from a reputable roastery, take a pride in their coffee.

Atlantis Cafe is a coffee shop in Liopetri, a one horse town, difficult to get to, where tumbleweed blowing through would not look out of place, a coffee shop with a pleasant ambience, where people relax, chat with their friends, play backgammon, that is busy until late. In the tourist areas, the slum bars attract the drunks, the bottom end of the tourist market, stay open until late, but are not busy, many are facing closure. The tourist industry spiralling downwards, the situation in the Middle East granting a temporary reprieve.

Atlantis Cafe, middle of nowhere, is busier than the tourist bars.

Coffee shops in Europe were the places of intellectual dialogue, political and philosophical discourse, haunts of artists. This did not happen in the English ale house, violent political discourse would have rapidly led to blood being shed.  The amount of alcohol consumed leading to retarded offspring.

When was the last time you saw bouncers on the door or a fight break out in a coffee shop?

What if a pub closes, a building that has historic value, is registered locally as a building of historic value, its community value recognised by registering as an Asset of Community Value (though it is difficult to claim a pub an Asset of Community Value when a myth it ever was), sits empty for several months, is stripped bare, restored to how it was as an historic building, reopens as an artisan coffee shop by people who are passionate about coffee, maybe in the evening a restaurant, where the emphasis is on ambience, service, good food, serves craft beer, wine, a venue that hosts cultural events, live music, book discussions and book signings, poetry reading, serves as a gallery for local artists, have we lost anything, or has the community and the local economy gained?

Advertisements

Fair deal for pubs

November 19, 2014
Sharp's Doom Bar

Sharp’s Doom Bar

Last night saw an historic victory for pubs. The government was defeated in the House of Commons.

The result

  • pub landlords will be able to have their rents reviewed by an independent body
  • pubs will be able to terminate the pubco tie
  • pubs will be able to by their drinks on the open market, not at artificially inflated prices from the pubos

Pubs are understandably delighted.

For beer drinkers, no more rubbish beer in the pub and prices should drop.

The shares of pubos have gone into free fall.

The pubcos say this is bad news for pubs, will lead to more pub closures.

Why then are pub landlords celebrating?

It means their businesses becomes viable. Currently, only free houses (not tied to pubcos) are viable.

It will only lead to more pub closures if pubcos sell off more pubs to service their debt (which is what they have been doing).

Shame on those MPs who voted in favour of the pubcos.

Name and shame your MP.

We know Gerald Howarth voted for the pubcos. Is anyone surprised?

We must thanks Greg Mulholland and Caroline Lucas whose hard work made this possible.

Slowly slowly, we are starting to see self-serving politicians act for the people not Big Business.

Last night another historic victory. In the US Senate the Keystone XL Pipeline (to bring oil from tar sands in Canada to the US) was defeated.

Today, students tore down the fencing and once again occupied Parliament Square. Remember liar Nick Clegg who promised free student tuition fees and voted with his Tory cronies to triple student fees.

Yesterday, the Czech President was egged.

Today, people took to the streets in Hungary to bring down the corrupt government.

Marston pub sell off

November 28, 2013

The death of the English pub continues apace. Marston has announced the sell-off of in excess of 200 pubs in a £90 million deal to NewRiver Retail.

NewRiver Retail is a property developer that specialise in trashing pubs for retail.

Expect more unwanted Tesco, Co-op, Sainsbury’s, McDonald’s.

The pubs are in the main leased, expect to see more pub landlords kicked out of their homes, their businesses and livelihoods destroyed.

Ever single one of these pubs needs to be identified, they are mainly in the Midlands, and an application made to the local authority for status as an Asset of Community Value. This will give the local community the opportunity to buy, and six months in which to raise the money.

Had any of these pubs already been listed, they could not have been offloaded to NewRiver Retail to be trashed. They would have had to be offered to the local community. Something that should be checked.

Marston although a brewery, is anther zombie pubco. It is £1.2 billion in debt. The sum raised by the sell-off is less than 10% of the debt.

Marston brews Pedigree and Hobgoblin. Maybe a boycott of Marston beers.

Battle for The Alma

November 2, 2013
The Alma

The Alma

The Alma is my business, my home and for the past 11 years everything I do. – Kirsty Valentine

Pubs are destroyed for many reasons, bad landlords for example. They are though in the main, destroyed by pubcos, who are screwing pub landlords, then when the pubs fails, it is sold off for redevelopment.

Pubs are not failing because people sit at home, as a ridiculous article in The Telegraph suggested.

The c 1720s Tumbledown Dick was a popular live music venue until it closed in 2008. Since left to rapidly deteriorate thanks to wilful neglect by Bride Hall and refusal to serve enforcement action by the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor.

The Alma, a Victorian pub in  Newington Green in Islington, was a pub to avoid, until Kirsty Valentine took it over and turned it around from a pub to avoid to a pub to visit, Kirsty Valentine is now facing bankruptcy. Not because she cannot run a successful pub, but because she is being screwed by zombie pubco bully Enterprise Inns. The Alma now faces an uncertain future, possible demolition and redevelopment of the site.

Pubcos screw landlords in two ways

  • overinflated rents
  • overcharging for drinks, which have to be bought from the pubco not on the open market

Kirsty Valentine is forced to pay 40% higher price, than if she bought on the open market. She is also restricted in what she can buy and sell.

If you walk into a pub and wonder why they are selling rubbish when there are great beers around, why you are paying over the odds, then ask are they tied to a pubco, then you will have the answer.

The Alma are not through sitting idly by and letting the pubco walk all over them, they are fighting back.

Part of the Battle to save the Alma, is to seek a listing from Islington as an Asset of Community Value under the Localism Act.

To protect the future of The Alma we want Islington to recognise its status as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) under the Localism Act.  Registration of The Alma as an ACV will ensure that it cannot be sold for non-pub alternative uses without the knowledge of the pubs management or customers and must, by law, be offered to the community to buy it if they wish.
 
Pubs are widely recognised in the planning system as making a positive contribution to the residential conservation areas they sit in, both in terms of their visual appeal and the historic function they perform as meeting places for the communities they serve. ACV registrations are taken into account when planning applications on the building are made and can be grounds for refusal where this would strip the building of its use or result in its demolition.

Tourists come to London for our heritage. Part of that heritage is the traditional English pub, serving real ales and quality food. They do not come for tacky fast food outlets.

Pubs are local businesses, they recycle money within the local economy, support other local businesses.

There is certainly a strong argument to be made for the social and economic value of the community pub. IPPR in a recent report Pubs and Places: the social value of community pubs, placed the wider social value of a sample of community pubs at between £20,000 and £120,000 per pub. It noted that pubs inject an average of £80,000 into their local economy each year, besides their cultural and practical community value.

Please sign the petition calling for The Alma to be designated as an Asset of Community Value under the Localism Act.

The Alma was a battle fought in the Crimean war.

Greene King tax dodgers

May 3, 2013
Rooney Anand Greene King dodging tax and screwing pub landlords

Rooney Anand Greene King dodging tax and screwing pub landlords

Greene King are a pubco, ie a large pub owning company that screws pub landlords by charging extortionate rents, and by overcharging for the beer they are forced to buy. The net result is the pubs go bust, and are then sold off for redevelopment.

We are losing 18 pubs a week thanks to greedy pubcos like Greene King.

One such pub Greene King has screwed into the ground is Farmer’s Boy, a 17th-century Grade II listed building in the village of Langley, Hertfordshire. Fred Robinson ran the pub for nearly five years but during that time it was never refurbished. The pub is now closed, earmarked for redevelopment as housing, Fred Robinson unemployed and the prospect of being rendered homeless.

Greene King are not content to screw their pub landlords, they are also screwing the rest of society by joining the likes of Starbucks and dodging tax.

Members of Parliament on the Public Accounts Committee have cited the pub group’s scheme as one example of “an illegitimate game to outwit the taxpayer”. Conservative committee member Richard Bacon suggested it was “purely artificial”.

Lawyers for HMRC claim that Greene King, which owns 2,300 pubs, including the Hungry Horse and Loch Fyne restaurant chains, received tailored tax advice from Ernst & Young suggesting it could build a series of transactions between companies within the same group that would leave it with a tax advantage.

Greene King chief executive Rooney Anand had the gall to take umbrage when The Grauniad had the audacity to question him about his tax-dodging activity.

Tax-dodging Greene King now face the prospect of a boycott or occupation.

The Queen Hotel

April 5, 2013
The Queen Hotel, boarded up and derelict

The Queen Hotel, boarded up and derelict

The Queen Hotel, a Victorian pub in Aldershot opposite the eyesore Westgate development, is sitting derelict and boarded up. Earlier in the week it was open.

18 pubs a week are being destroyed, not because of failings by pub landlords or because beer is too expensive, they are closing because greedy zombie pubcos are screwing the pub landlords, driving them out off business, then selling the pub off for redevelopment.

It would be a tragedy if The Queen Hotel is demolished or even if it was gutted for housing.

It should be listed by the local council as a building of local historic importance, as it meets the criteria. But is it? If it is, it affords a degree of protection as it cannot be demolished, but then why are two pubs in nearby Farnborough, The Ship Inn and The Tumbledown Dick not listed.

The local council lacks a pub protection policy, even though required to have one by national planning policy. A pub protection policy would require the pub to be put on the market as a pub. Though I note there was a For Sale board on the pub which has recently been removed. But for sale as what, a pub or a site with redevelopment potential?

The All Party Parliamentary pub group has written to the local council to ask what is their pub protection policy. It will be interesting to see what is their response, in the light they lack one and the council were told they are not required to have one.

The good news: Wetherspoon may have pulled out of trashing The Arcade. Wetherspoon may be the buyer of The Queen Hotel. But this needs to be confirmed.

Greedy pubcos are destroying our pubs

March 15, 2013

18 pubs a week are closing. It is not tax, it is not a ban on smoking that is killing ours pubs, it is greedy pubcos who are screwing pub landlords and forcing them out of business, then selling off the site for redevelopment.

The Tumbledown Dick, a c 1720s coaching inn, is one of many pubs facing destruction, destruction by greed.

How zombie pubco Punch is destroying pubs

February 14, 2013

An excellent video on the Guardian website explaining how zombie pubco Punch is destroying pubs.

Punch is a zombie company saddled with debts that it has no hope of paying off.

Punch went on a massive pub buying spree, using borrowed money, money that it can no longer repay. It can barely meet the interest payments. It does so by squeezing pub landlords, jacking up the rent, over charging for beer and other drinks. When all else fails, and the pub landlord is driven out of business, losing everything, the pub is put up for sale for redevelopment.

As a result, we are losing 18 pubs a week. One such pub is The Tumbledown Dick a c 1720s coaching inn under threat of demolition for a Drive-Thru McDonald’s.

Local councils are required by national planning to have in place a pub protection policy, but few have. A model pub protection policy is that introduced by Cambridge.