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The downturn is already here Your editor's Morning Advertiser opinion piece (17 January 2008) initially drew my interest because of its inference...

The downturn

is already here

Your editor's Morning Advertiser opinion piece

(17 January 2008) initially drew my interest because

of its inference about us stout-hearted licensees. But it soon plummeted into the usual smug, supercilious diatribe about our industry.

The MA is supposedly the licensees' paper - so why doesn't it take up the banner on our behalf and tell the truth about how the industry has been ravaged over the past two decades by bureaucracy gone mad and pubcos' greed?

You wrote of the threatened downturn in the country's economy and how it might affect the industry in the ensuing year, suggesting that future MA articles would continue with your acclaimed Drive for Quality series. You could point out how the pubcos and interfering Government could help struggling licensees, because that downturn has arrived.

I may be one of the doom-and-gloom brigade, but isn't it time we in the industry and you at the MA reflected on how, since the Monopolies & Merger Commission published its findings in the late '80s, the industry has had its heart ripped out by greedy pubcos and undesirable legislation from national and local Government?

I remember those scramble years when pubcos forced up unsuspecting licensees' rents to obscene levels. This wasn't aimed at industry improvement - that might have been creditable - but to make profits for further acquisitions.

And I certainly remember the astonishing increases in beer prices Government and pubcos forced upon us without any consultation.

As trade representatives, for how long do you expect the British public to absorb extortionate increases? Thousands are leaving pubs in favour of cheaper at-home drinking.

It was suggested recently that 2,000 UK pubs at the bottom end of the industry will close. Does this mean dingy back-street houses that fail to comply with pubcos' ideas? Most pubs that close are small and make low profits for pubcos. What happened to the idea of the local pub offering a service to its community?

The pub is still the quintessence of Britishness, and I'm proud to run mine as the hub of our local community. I'm sure other licensees will agree that our industry must survive, as it did for hundreds of years without Government and pubco interference.

We are not a vote-catching pawn in a political game.

Pubcos are killing the goose that lays the golden egg. No more pubs means no more pubcos.

Rodney A Stoneham

Licensee, Ye John Selden,

Worthing, West Sussex

Editor writes: I do understand your frustration and anger, Rodney.

The trade has certainly changed in so many ways since the Beer Orders. But so has Britain generally.

Thanks to globalisation, we are all subject to much harsher competitive pressures. The modern licensee has a much harder job than licensees 20 years ago. That is the nature of the pub trade these days, and it's never going to get any easier. So, too, Government red tape, which all business organisations fight against without success.

The Morning Advertiser cannot change the way the world operates today, sadly. All we can do is air legitimate grievances of licensees such as yourself and keep bringing these stories to the attention of the various powers that be.

Sometimes, such as with energy providers, we achieve a result for the trade. At other times, all we can do is keep hammering away and hope for the best.

But we are always aware how difficult your job is, and it is through practical business-building advice that we feel we are best able to help.

Beating the supermarkets

I often read about licensees complaining about cheap supermarket beer. Very few seem to realise they are armed with a great weapon if they want to fight back: draught beer.

At our pub, the Lamb, in Berkhamsted, Herts, we've created a thriving off-sales market by supplying kegs for events such as private parties and barbecues.

Supplying draught beer is no longer a hassle since we teamed up with Cool Beers, which provides our portable beer dispensers.

People prefer draught -

so why do licensees allow the supermarkets and off-licences to have all the


Mick Garraway

via email

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