The sharp end of the pub trade
I read with great interest your article "Punch executives land double-digit pay rises" (MA, 10 January 2008).
It's time Mr Thorley sent some of his overpaid staff to the sharp end of the leased-trade sector to find out how difficult things really are.
Combine the smoking ban with supermarket pricing and what chance do lessees like myself stand of making a respectable profit for the amount of time and effort we put in?
The main area where help could be given is in apportioning some of the tremendous barrelage discounts Punch and other pubcos enjoy. I receive no discount whatsoever, and am tied 100% for ales, wines and spirits.
I know of one lessee in this area who could not cope with the rising costs of running their pub, and ended up insolvent, losing both house and business.
Weeks later the pub had a new lessee paying a peppercorn rent to assist the re-launch. Why couldn't Punch have allowed this for the outgoing lessee?
In my case, Punch decided in 2007 to do a small refurbishment and install a smoking area and exterior decking. Planning permission was granted, I had meetings with Punch, and interior and exterior designs were agreed with the in-house design team. Then came the bombshell: the figures didn't stack up and the scheme was aborted, although other local Punch outlets had more spent on them.
Punch has no more funding available until June, but my scheme is not guaranteed.
I approached the company for the design boards the team had done to price the job myself, to no avail.
The last pub refurb was in 1998 (not by Punch). Despite my own maintenance it is looking jaded - and, let's face it, there is some stiff competition out there.
I myself have four freehouses surrounding me and a Wetherspoon's less than a mile away. The nearest lease to me is run by a friend of mine on a Scottish & Newcastle (S&N) package with barrelage discount and three refurbs since 1999. Another friend has freetrade outlets four miles away and is selling (midweek) beer cheaper than I can buy from Punch.
I have now built a smoking shelter at my own expense, in the same way as I've done with with a children's play area, an 18-bay car-park extension, plus many other additions that were not worth fighting over with Punch regarding responsibilities.
Why go with Punch at all? Well, the simple answer is that it didn't happen through choice. I first took the tenancy of my pub in 1983 with a local family-led brewery named Vaux. After the demise of Vaux we were swallowed by Pubmaster in July 1999 and eventually by Punch.
At the tender age of 58, rather than enjoying the fruits of my labour, I find myself struggling to survive.
Is it not time the Government stepped in to look at this type of operation along with the supermarkets' cheap alcohol pricing?
Why are the heavy-handed tactics related to binge drinking and alcohol abuse always targeted at public houses?
Part of any pubco's employment terms should be a compulsory stint working in a pub.
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The polycarb price puzzle
Recently I attended a meeting with Hull police and a couple of eye surgeons regarding the damage caused by glassing in pubs, explaining why we should all switch to polycarbonate glasses.
Pictures were displayed, showing the horrific damage caused by a glass. The injuries were so severe that the poor guy who was glassed at the age of 21 lost the sight in one eye, while his vision in the other was severely impaired.
The cost of policing, plus the cost to the NHS for surgery and aftercare was thousands of pounds. We were informed that it costs the various agencies that deal with glassing millions of pounds.
If the cost does amount to millions, why are polycarbonate glasses more expensive than the normal glasses used in most UK licensed premises?
Why doesn't the Government step in and make them cheaper, and why do we have to pay £4 per dozen more for polycarbonate bottles?
Ye Olde White Harte, Silver Street, Kingston-upon-Hull
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