Are you David or Goliath?

By Jay Smith

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Tenanted pub company

Smith: urging tenants to stand up to pubcos
Smith: urging tenants to stand up to pubcos
Licensee Jay Smith gives a view on the challenges facing tenants in the wake of the Morning Advertiser's Tenanted Pub Company Summit.

Licensee Jay Smith, who appeared on Blighty UKTV helping communities save their pub, gives a view on the challenges facing tenants in the wake of the Morning Advertiser​'s Tenanted Pub Company Summit.

Are you David or Goliath?

Let's take the five biggest pubcos and add up all their staff, perhaps as many as 3,000 people work for these businesses if we include the tea lady. Now let's add up the tenants... 17,000? 18,000? More? Seems to me there are more of us than there are of them.

Now let's look how many of those staff can affect your life. Your BDM, his boss and the board. Eight people between you and the end of your career as a licensee. So how are they winning the battle over our finances? Because we let them that's why.

We join groups, we shout from the rooftops, we lobby MPs and we moan, a lot. We put our faith in trade bodies and campaign groups and most of all we live in hope that at some point somebody from the company that really owns our pub will take pity on us for signing an appalling lease and let us have our beer at a fair price.

Most of all we live to hate the main man at our respective pubco. We think he's vile and wish him all the ill-fortune in the world.

Here's a thing. The main man at your pubco cares less about your opinion of him than you do about the snails in your garden. While you are taking pot-shots at him you are missing the chance to fight for real change. His company may look bankrupt to me and you but big business doesn't work like that.

So the share price is in the gutter compared with a few years ago, he'll just find another way to top up his pay. The banks are so far into his business they don't actually want to talk about it, they just hope that when the property market has a revival they may get some value for the huge sums they threw around in the good times.

Every day on forums and websites we read the mutterings of tenants and their trade groups about how the end is close, it can't go on forever, he'll lose his job soon and it serves him right. Is that paying your VAT bill?

Your dislike for your BDM and the thought of him being out of work soon is paying your rent is it? No? Damn right it isn't. So whilst the trend for executive bashing grows and gives us brief satisfaction who pays your bank charges? You do and you'll continue doing for a very long time.

Personally I think the work done by many in our industry to make the practices of pubco's public has been nothing short of a miracle. To run a pub and still find the time to work so hard on behalf of the trade is incredible and shows the kind of steel and will that should ultimately see Government sit up and listen.

My problem is this: While we throw insults around and drag the debate into the gutter we still have tenants so desperate they are mortgaging their soul to stay afloat. They have nothing left to give but live under the threat of court action, bankruptcy, homelessness, a life in ruins.

The chief executive's take home pay is not their worry, his bonus being cut may raise a smile but it doesn't put food on the table. We are trying to chop a tree down from the top! Just in case it does actually take a while for these companies to fail and just in case it takes longer than one term at Westminster to throw some laws our way can we get back to trying to get a fair deal for the people living this nightmare every day?

What would be the harm in ignoring the financial peril of your pubco for a while and taking the fight back to where it began.

Your deal? Looking back on it maybe you shouldn't have signed your lease but the reality is that you did and now you are stuck with it but you are not alone, remember how many other people are in your position.

If all of us join together and refuse to be ignored it would be a brave company to try to avoid us. Let their shares wander around at the foot of the table, let the banks haggle over their debt, it's the price you pay for beer, fixtures and fittings, cellar cooling and insurance that affects your life and it's these issues we want to resolve.

We are no nearer to sorting out the flaws of the tied model than we were two or three years ago, sure there is some talk from the pubcos to placate the odd MP but nothing solid, we keep missing the target because we allow ourselves to be drawn from one side of the debate to the other.

We get excited about Debt Mountains, directors resigning and poor results but in all honesty none of that makes any difference to your life at all.

If the company that owns your pub fails five or six years from now will it help you? If you get your voice heard now and get a better deal would that be a better result?

I think it would and I think it is this idea that frightens your pubco the most. They like talking about their debt, they like you having a pop at the boss, they like that we have forgotten the daily issues and gone for the top man instead, they absolutely do not like the idea of a trade uniting to demand a fair deal for all and they certainly don't fancy fighting every single last one of us at the same time; but then they don't have to at the moment do they....?

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