Greene King, the Lewes Arms, and the right of protest

By Hamish Champ

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Greene king, Protest

The recent Easter holiday saw me whizzing about the Sussex countryside on my motorcycle along with a bunch of biker chums. Being in the vicinity of...

The recent Easter holiday saw me whizzing about the Sussex countryside on my motorcycle along with a bunch of biker chums.

Being in the vicinity of Lewes and the now (in)famous Lewes Arms - and intrigued to see whether the pub was still the subject of a 'picket' following Greene King's decision to review its removal of Harveys cask ale - we decided to pay the town and pub a visit.

On arrival, the only people outside the boozer in question were some kids and their parents playing marbles.

Inside, even though the morning's 'picket' had packed up for the day, the place had but one customer.

The actions of some disgruntled and well-organised (former) Lewes Arms customers appeared to be having the desired effect, namely that of making the pub a no-go zone.

One can empathise with Lewes locals taking umbrage at Greene King's decision to take out Harveys. And since there were a few other guest ales on when we visited the pub one wonders why the brewer has banged on about its 'right to remove a rival beer', but decided to pick on the one made, quite literally, just down the road.

But now there is to be a review of the Harveys decision and my guess is Greene King will reinstate the beer. This surely wouldn't have happened but for the protests. Greene King could have - should have ​- resolved this long before it became a PR disaster. Whether the Lewes Arms can recover from this, certainly as a Greene King-owned pub, is open to question.

But here's what got me thinking; surely the protesters should have directed their focus elsewhere?

Like maybe mounting a candle-lit vigil outside the Harveys brewery in Lewes?

I say this because by physically picketing the Lewes Arms and dissuading potential customers from entering, the pro-Harveys protesters have not only affected the business of the pub - quite seriously, it would appear - but also the livelihoods and working conditions of its manager and his team of staff.

The action of the protesters, aimed at shaming Greene King into changing its mind, is in principle no different from what some groups of workers did during industrial disputes back in the Eighties and which Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government so roundly condemned as 'secondary picketing'.

It might have had the desired effect here, but perversely the well-heeled pro-Harveys brigade have also hit the very men and women who have been running their (formerly) much-loved pub.

And that's bad form in my book.

Related topics: Greene King

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