Pub trade 2010: rolling with the punches

By Tony Halstead

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Pub, Pubs independent rent, Cask ale, Beer, Mitchells & butlers

2010 in the pub trade
2010 in the pub trade
There's no doubt about it, 2010 was a tough 12 months, but there were some laughs along the way. Tony Halstead takes a look. January The year...

There's no doubt about it, 2010 was a tough 12 months, but there were some laughs along the way. Tony Halstead takes a look.

January

The year begins on a gloomy note with doom-laden forecasts of a 40p rise in the price of a pint, while pubs and breweries experience a trading nightmare as Britain shivers in the grip of deep-freeze temperatures, snow and ice. Predictions of a VAT rise, brewery price increases and more excise duty deepen anxieties for licensees already seeing their trade shattered by the arctic weather.

Hosts face a range of "ridiculous" penalties, including six months in jail and £20,000 fines if they fail to ID suspected under-18 drinkers, in the Government's updated mandatory alcohol code.

The UK's biggest managed pub operator, Mitchells & Butlers, announces a key re-structure, concentrating on six retail concepts.

The trade's new low-cost rent arbitration initiative, the Pubs Independent Rent Review Scheme (PIRRS), is finally up and running. A further delay in the publication of the Business Innovation & Skills Committee's report into pubco-tenant relations is announced.

The Government rules out duty concessions on draught beer, saying the move would contravene European law.

Fancy that!

Pub operator Greene King runs into trouble with the local clergy in Oxford when it applies for a licence to stage pole-dancing in a pub next to St Ebbe's Church. The Rev Vaughan Roberts, rector of the church, says such activities at the Thirst Lodge: "Degraded God's gift of sex and degraded women, making them objects to be ogled at." Greene King withdrew the application.

February

More licensees are escaping conviction for showing foreign satellite football matches after a group of hosts band together to contest prosecutions. Seven of them are cleared but Media Protection Services and the Premier League continue to insist the screenings are illegal.

The Mitchells & Butlers AGM is likened to an episode of the X Factor - there is frenzied media attention, a passionate audience and an array of stars and villains on show as three board members are voted out, following shareholder discontent at the way the company is being run.

Sky unveils a television viewing revolution with the launch of the first Premiership soccer match to be screened in 3D. The secret screening at an unnamed Fuller's pub in London attracts a sell-out all-ticket audience.

The trade launches its inaugural Cask Ale Week, which sees breweries and pubs the length and breadth of the land put on special events and promotions. Brewers taking part declare the event a great success.

Britain's first pubs minister is announced. John Healey, MP for Wentworth, South Yorkshire, is given the job of devising ways to help the industry, in a move that receives the backing of most trade groups.

Fancy that!

Licensee Matthew Walsh is offered an unexpected "payment in kind" from a regular at the Bugle Horn in Bassingham, Lincolnshire, when a customer nominates his wife as the pub's cleaner in return for a pint. Bartering has become a way of life at the Marston's local, but Walsh was left wondering whether this one is a joke.

March

There are murmurings of discontent in West Yorkshire as Carlsberg announces that the new home of Tetley will be at Marston's Wolverhampton Brewery in the West Midlands. It's not the news northern Tetley's Bitter men were hoping for, as they claim that Tetley's can never be the same if it's brewed outside the white-rose county.

Sky announces a subscription price freeze until further notice, even after the introduction of new business-rate levels scheduled for April.

Britain's pubcos are given 15 months to change or risk action, promises MP Peter Luff, chairman of the Business Innovation & Skills Committee, in his report.

Marston's launches a revolutionary system for storing cask beer. Fastcask involves a yeast treatment that allows beer to drop bright at speed while still undergoing secondary fermentation.

A bombshell from Chancellor Alistair Darling whose Budget measures include extension of the duty escalator, forcing rises of 2% above inflation. Predictions point to increases of more than 8p a pint.

Punch announces that it is to sell another 1,300 pubs to bring its estate down to the 5,000 mark.

Fancy that!

Singer Charlotte Church builds a pub at the end of her garden so she can throw parties for her friends in the new private bar at her £800,000 Cardiff farmhouse, in a bid to escape the attention of the media and paparazzi.

April

Punch boss Giles Thorley announces he is to stand down after nine years at the helm.

Dire forecasts that as many as 10,000 pubs could close over the next five years come from Alistair Darby, head of Marston's tenanted division.

The three main political parties are busy offering sweeteners to the electorate as the general-election campaign gathers momentum. The trio are all promising major reform of the pubco model, with the Tories also saying that tenants should be offered a free-of-tie option.

The Scottish & Newcastle Pub Company announces a £10m investment plan across its 2,000-strong pub estate.

There are celebrations among beer lovers as the famous Bass Museum in Burton-on-Trent is saved, thanks to new owners Planning Solutions, and will in future be known as the National Brewery Museum.

Fancy that!

Workers at the Carlsberg Brewery in Northampton down tools in an unusual industrial dispute involving the provision of free beer by the company. The two-day stoppage comes as the Danish owner tries to limit the daily beer allowance during working hours to lunchtimes only. A total of 800 workers are involved in the protest.

May

Pub operators are in line for windfall VAT refunds, following over payments on gaming machine tax over three years. JD Wetherspoon is the first to get a £14.9m repayment from HM Revenue & Customs.

Mitchells & Butlers says it is to sell off 300 wet-led pubs that no longer fit its trading criteria. Disposal of 80 leased franchised pubs is also expected.

Enterprise Inns reports that trade has stabilised over the past six months and announces it is creating a new free-of-tie lease, which involves a jump in rent, but an end to rent reviews.

The trade is busy trying to work out whether the new coalition government spells good news or not. Thirteen members of the new administration, including five secretaries of state, signed up for a five-point plan to help pubs before the election. An early move sees the new Government announce plans for communities to receive the right to buy the last pub in the village.

Richard and Loren Pope, of the Bulls Head, Repton, Derbyshire, win the BII Licensee of the Year Award.

Fancy that!

More than 140 barstaff at Clover Taverns pubs change their name to Wayne Rooney and managers switch their identities to Fabio Capello, to promote the World Cup across the company's pub estate. Even managing director Andy Wilkinson gets in on the act, assuming the name of FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

June

A week-long celebration to mark the importance of British pubs in society receives backing from all sectors of the industry. British Pub Week, set for the end of October, is designed to drive footfall into licensed premises.

The British Beer & Pub Association produces a 23-step guide to help pubs operate a safe and successful World Cup tournament in their premises. The guidance was issued in conjunction with local government co-ordinator LACORS.

Labour MP Adrian Bailey becomes the new chairman of the influential Business Innovation & Skills Committee, replacing Tory Peter Luff.

Enterprise Inns chief executive Ted Tuppen and arch rival MP Greg Mulholland clash on a public platform at the Tenanted Pub Company Summit, organised by the Morning Advertiser and sister publication M&C Report. The debate broke out into open hostilities as both men vented their feelings in unapologetic style.

There is a mixed trade response to the co

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