Forced to accept second best

By Peter Coulson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Premises licence Licensing act License Law Lease Officer Punch taverns

Coulson: success invariably comes from work and effort of the lessee
Coulson: success invariably comes from work and effort of the lessee
Peter Coulson considers the great tied lease debate.

I have steered well clear of the great tie debate of recent months, but there is no doubt that readers have been contacting me in greater numbers concerning issues to do with their leases or tenancy agreements.

So it was with some interest that I read the recent report in the Morning Advertiser on Punch Taverns' relationship with its tenants, and in particular the comment "our solicitor at the time told us not to sign the lease as there were too many restrictions, but you don't have a choice really. You either take the lease, warts and all, or you don't have a pub."

That, I find a chilling indictment

of the way things are conducted in this business. People enter into agreements that do not make sense to them or their legal advisers, and then complain that they are being exploited. This must be the only business in which almost everyone starts from a commercial disadvantage brought about by an occupational agreement, on the basis that they are gaining an unquantifiable benefit from the 'deal'. If success comes, it strikes me it must almost invariably be from the inordinate work and effort of the lessee

against all the odds. To hold that success up, when you find it, as a vindication of the system, misses the point entirely.

Next week I clock up 40 years in the licensed trade, during which time I have seen a complete revolution in the industry that was undreamed of in the '70s. Yet in spite of all this, the tie remains intact, even though it has now been moved for the most part from a direct brewer-tenant relationship to a landlord-tenant one which has nothing of the original elements of the system. I suppose it is something remarkable that when I first started writing for the Morning Advertiser, tenancy agreements were one of the main subjects of debate between the then-strong LVAs and their regional brewers and there was a national union for pub licensees as well.

Plus ça change! The young MA columnist Phil Dixon — a mere lad — used to take on the top brass of the brewing industry about tenancy agreements and has been at the

forefront of recent initiatives as well, based on years of talking to people with "warts and all" leases. I am sure he would agree that if you go against the advice of your lawyer and sign a lousy lease, you have only yourself to blame.


Measures for cider

Q. We do not have draught cider on hand pump, but we do have branded and local flagons of cider in this pub, from which we pour glasses at the request of customers. Do the regulations on pints and half pints as legal measure apply to cider as well as beer?

A. The answer is a clear yes. Weights and measures regulations on quantity apply equally to draught cider as they do to draught beer.

This means that any form of dispense of cider which is by a free-flow system, including pouring from a flagon or counter-container, requires the drink to be sold to customer in a stamped, capacity measure of the quantity in question.

It would be illegal, for example, to dispense cider freehand into a 12-ounce goblet where a half was requested by the purchaser, unless that goblet was lined and government stamped at the 10-ounce mark.

Where bottled cider is requested or supplied, the restrictions do not apply and oversized goblets may be used. But any form of draught

dispense requires the same care and attention to measurement

as for beer.

Age no barrier to licence

Q. Is it true that it is not legally possible to hold a premises licence after you are 65? This would make it impossible for older licensees to run pubs in their own name.

A. I think there are very many highly competent people of "a certain age" who would be very unhappy at this suggestion. A retirement age has definitely

not been inserted into the Licensing Act or the regulations and there is no legal bar to anyone holding either a premises licence or a personal licence at any advanced age.

The only way in which this is relevant in pubs is if a brewery or other trade employer sets a retirement age for employees, such as pub managers. Under current employment law, with certain conditions this is perfectly permissible although age discrimination rules will also apply.

As far as the licensing authority is concerned, however, a premises licence may be held until such time as it is forfeit or surrendered. In the new Licensing Act, mental incapacity can lead to lapse of the premises licence, but this would not normally apply to people as young as 65.

Refreshments for police officers

Q. A colleague who runs a pub near mine still insists that it is illegal to serve any form of refreshment to a police officer under what he calls the "treating laws". I thought most of these old rules were removed when the new Licensing Act came into force.

A. Very few people will know that amount of background, but it is perfectly true that this was the origin of the ban on serving policemen on duty. But it has now disappeared from the law.

There is now no obligation placed on the licence-holder or staff not to serve a police officer, even if he asks for a drink. It is an internal disciplinary matter if he drinks on duty. It is no longer part of the law, as the relevant section of the Licensing Act

1964 was not included in the new legislation.

I have been made aware that a number of licensees who did not have to take an examination under the new laws at the time of transition in 2005 still operate some of the terms and conditions of the old Act, so it is not surprising that these ideas persist. A number of the minor restrictions of the old law such as this have been removed from consideration simply by omitting them from the 2003 Act, which meant they passed away on 24 November 2005. Those licensees who enjoyed grandfather rights may not be aware of the smaller changes in the legislation, which tidied up the law in several respects.

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