Good news for beer, but what about the pub?

By Greg Mulholland

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: British beer, Beer, Pub group

Greg Mulholland: 'Tie reform can save the British pub'
Greg Mulholland: 'Tie reform can save the British pub'
When it comes to British beer, to quote Harold Macmillan, we have never had it so good. Nationally, we now have 840 breweries, with almost 100 new ones opening across the UK in the past year, with a remarkable 5,500 beers now in regular production, a new report shows. As Roger Protz pointed out, to sample those would take something like 25 years. Now that’s a challenge.

There is particular pride for Yorkshire, firmly established as the UK’s number-one county for beer, with 610 beers being brewed regularly by 98 breweries, six times as many as when the first Good Beer Guide was compiled in the 1970s.

However, while this is great news for British beer, what about the natural place to enjoy all this great ale — the pub? How many pubs will still be around when the 25-year sampling session comes to an end?

The answer to that depends on whether the Government does what it promised, and legislates to reform the beer tie.

Even before the final select committee report on the pubcos came out, it was clear the pubcos had not done what the committee — and both Governments — had said they must do to avoid reform. Indeed, the reality of the pubco model had been exposed, for big companies have admitted they can’t do what has been asked of them or their businesses would collapse.

In other words, they are taking more in dry and wet rent than is reasonable from each pub and need to continue to do so or they will fail.

The All-Party Parliamentary Save the Pub Group recently hosted a meeting entitled ‘Post-beer tie reform: the rejuvenation of an institution & an industry’. We heard from the Federation of Small Businesses, the Forum of Private Business and of many examples of former pubco pubs turned around by new owners.

In nearly all cases deemed unviable by the pubco, now in local hands, be they an individual, small firm or microbrewery, they are succeeding.

This is the most exciting thing happening in the pub sector. Despite difficult economic times, there are many such ‘unviable’ pubs now thriving, operating within a fair, sustainable business model.

We need this to happen across the sector. But this will not occur on its own. Despite many pubs now being turned round in this way, this trend is still a small one, because the pubcos and breweries are still operating thousands of tied leases that stop tenants making a living, causing many pubs to fail.

It is time to free up the pub sector, get more pubs back into the hands of local people, companies and breweries so pubs as small businesses can survive and thrive.

The future for British beer is bright. The message to the Government is clear: with tie reform the future of the British pub can be too.

Related topics: Beer

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