The Big Interview: David Hawksworth, FLVA

By Gurjit Degun

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Flva Pub trade License

Hawksworth: "We’ve got to make it known to licensees that we’re here to support them and help them in their business through hard times.”
Hawksworth: "We’ve got to make it known to licensees that we’re here to support them and help them in their business through hard times.”
David Hawksworth was recently crowned the new president of the Federation of Licensed Victuallers Associations (FLVA). He talks to Gurjit Degun about getting a fair deal for licensee.

As owner of the Fox & Hounds in Bullamoor, North Yorkshire, and new president of the FLVA, David Hawksworth is extremely passionate about the pub trade — so passionate that, after 40 years in the industry, he swears: “You’ll carry me out of the pub in a coffin and it’ll be a bloody good wake.”

This is a man who has been involved in the trade since the ’70s and a member of the FLVA for 13 years — he spends his spare time looking after his local LVA in Northallerton, also in North Yorkshire.

Hawksworth is well-placed to understand how difficult it can be to run a pub today, and it’s clear why he has been handed presidency of the FLVA, taking over from Nigel Williams just a few months ago. “In the 40 years that I have been in the trade, this must be the hardest two years I have ever known for licensees — the brewing trade is struggling to make ends meet
too,” he says.

“There’s been a knock-on effect right down the line. The amount of beer sold is minimising by the day.”

Hawksworth, along with his wife Susan, bought the Fox & Hounds in 2000 after working in a Tetley’s-managed pub “when it was a great brewery and a great managed-house company”.

He trained as a chef at the beginning of his career, although he spends less time in his kitchen now, focusing attention on front-of-house and pushing the FLVA forward.

Hawksworth explains that his pub is “surviving”. He believes that if a pub is surviving or increasing turnover — “even if it is by 1% or 2%” — it is positive for the trade.

His views echo those of other veterans in the trade — he also claims the Government’s introduction of the Beer Orders in 1989 was “the downfall of the licensed trade” but admits that it is a “sad thing to say”.

“When it was with the brewers, it was well-organised, well-controlled and people made a fair living from it,” explains Hawksworth. “Now we keep seeing more licensees struggling to make not even a fair wage — a minimum wage.”

Professional image
That’s exactly what he wants the FLVA to address — to help licensees get a fair deal and run their business. Hawksworth has a clear vision of the direction he wants the organisation to take.

“We’ve got to be out there and show that we are a professional organisation,” he explains. “We’re professional licensees trying to run a professional business.”

This new image has seen the launch of a new website, which he says will see the FLVA presenting a more professional image of a “forward-thinking” group. “We’ve got to make it known to licensees that we’re here to support them and help them in their business through hard times.”

There are also plans to expand the organisation nationally — it has around 800 members. The FLVA’s heartland is in the north and the Guild of Master Victuallers covers the south, but Hawksworth insists that there are no plans for a merger.

“We’ve got lots of modern technology, which means we don’t have to drive to the pub. We can sort a problem out simply through emails,” Hawksworth explains. “Hopefully, we can set up small LVAs in different parts of the country and regrow these great groups to form a national FLVA across the country as it was many, many years ago. Let’s just hope that we can see growth within a few things.”

The controversy over the pubco-tenant relationship saw the FLVA play a strong hand in what it wants for its members. The Government is now in the process of introducing statutory legislation.  “At the end of the day we’re here to try and make sure that the statutory code protects the licensee, and protects their premises, and makes sure that they can make a living,” says Hawksworth.

“That’s going to take a lot of time. There’s a lot of work to do. But we are talking to the right people, we are sitting at the right tables and we have lots of contacts within Government who are supporting us.”

He admits that he has seen industry bodies work closer since the Government asked the trade to come up with a voluntary code. “There are lots of trade bodies that give lots of good advice,”  adds Hawksworth. “My first introduction into the trade bodies was a very positive one. Everyone seemed to be switched on, everyone seemed to want the same thing we wanted — which was to assist licensees. That’s what we’re all about.”

Passion for pubs
The statutory code may be a major issue in the pub trade, but it isn’t the only one. Hawksworth is determined to fight the case against the way business rates are calculated for pubs, and secure lower VAT for the trade too.

“The cost of business rates to licensed premises is absolutely exorbitant,” explains Hawksworth. “When you take into consideration the licensed area in a supermarket and the rates they pay compared to a pub, it is absolutely ridiculous. I think it will definitely change soon. I think the rating agencies have already started the discussions. How it’s going to turn out we simply don’t know.

“But if the Government rating authority assessors wanted to talk to us as a group, we’ve got no problem in sitting them down and pointing them in the right direction.”

Looking forward, Hawksworth predicts “another strenuous two years” for the trade but maintains that he is up for the challenge.

“I have a passion for the British pub and I do not want to see it close,” he says. "I have a passion to make sure that we still keep our traditions and keep them strong. I know we have to move on and things have to change, but I’m passionate that the British pub stays alive.

“Tradition can be old-fashioned, but the ethics of what the past FLVA presidents have instilled in me have got me to where I am now. You never stop learning, they keep addressing you, they keep pulling you back when you’re going too fast.

“I just hope that I can achieve what our past presidents have achieved. I’m certainly going to keep pushing the FLVA forward.”

Key dates
David Hawksworth enrols at Liverpool College of Crafts and Catering
He works on a private yacht in the Mediterranean
He moves to Harrogate, North Yorkshire, to work as a chef in a Polynesian restaurant
Hawksworth works as a chef at the Central Electricity Board, before being appointed catering manager at a nuclear power station near Hartlepool, County Durham
He takes on the White House in Hartlepool, from Joshua Tetley
2000 to present day
Hawksworth and wife, Susan, take on the Fox & Hounds in Bullamoor, North Yorkshire

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