Good Pub Guide: Editors labelled 'morally repugnant' in industry backlash

By Ellie Bothwell

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Good pub guide Campaign for real ale Fiona stapley

Leading beer writer Roger Protz: The editors' comments are 'absolutely heartless and appalling'
Leading beer writer Roger Protz: The editors' comments are 'absolutely heartless and appalling'
The Good Pub Guide 2014 editors have been called “morally repugnant” and “a disgrace” by representatives of the pub trade, over their claims that the thousands of pubs “stuck in the 1980s” deserve to go out of business.

The controversial statements in the introduction of the guide have caused outrage among the industry, with some claiming that the editors are “out of touch” and others urging the Government to do more to support the industry.


Editor of the CAMRA Good Beer Guide and Publican's Morning Advertiser​ columnist Roger Protz said the comments from the guide editors Alisdair Aird and Fiona Stapley were “absolutely heartless”.

“The editors were clearly trying to create quick headlines to sell their book and they have been successful, but they are not helping their own industry. I find that morally repugnant, saying pubs deserve to close when they are talking about people who will lose their jobs, premises and livelihoods,” he told the PMA​.

"I think the editors, on reflection, should offer a full apology to the pub trade. Just when there are signs of a recovery in the sector, with pub sales and visits picking up, Aird and Stapley have dumped on hard-pressed and hard-working publicans from a great height.

"Talk of thousands of 'bad pubs' will put people off from going to the very places the Good Pub Guide is meant to promote. It's a spiteful and shameful attack and puts into question the raison d'etre of the guide itself."

He added that the Good Pub Guide should be renamed the ‘Good GastroPub Guide’ since it only promotes “upmarket pubs with long menus and posh chefs” and ignores the large proportion of people who just want to go to a pub for a beer.

Government action

Miles Beale, the Wine and Spirits Trade Association chief executive, also expressed his concern over the statements and said the Government should step in to deal with the claims that between 2,500 and 4,000 pubs will be forced out of business in the next 12 months.

“The report should be a wake-up call for the Government that more needs to be done to support the on-trade sector.

“We know that pubs offering a wider selection of food and drink are performing well. However, the Government needs to provide greater incentives for these pubs and for others to follow suit.”

He added that the best way to do this would be to drop the alcohol duty escalator on wine and spirits a year early.

Steve Kemp, political officer at GMB trade union, suggested that Parliament should legislate a free of tie option to allow tenants to buy products on the open market and pay a fair rent for the building, since sky high rents and taxes are “pricing pubs out of the market.”

Publican outrage

Licensees have also been vociferous on the PMA​ forums, with some questioning the guide’s relevance considering that pubs are charged for inclusion, while others uproar that the guide “slates and damns the very thing it claims to promote”.

One commenter Pete Robinson wrote: “The authors are so out of touch with real customers it's beyond despair. Pubs are failing because the general public have overwhelmingly rejected the 'evolution' and 'excellence' we have foisted upon them. We've tried to satisfy a demand that never existed and now we're paying the price.”

Tug Wilson, another publican, added: “Any organisation in this country that applauds the fact that ‘Thousands of pubs will rightly go out of business over the next year’ are a disgrace.”

However, another commenter under the name ‘Village Pub Sub’ said there was an element of truth in the editors’ statements.

“No longer is surly and rude service acceptable, nor is being lacklustre. I can't think of a pub in this area that was run well, maintained and had good beer that has closed, but I can think of several of the other kind that have closed! Pubs can't just sit on their laurels and expect people to run through the doors. You need to give customers a reason to come to your pub!”

Future buyers

Colliers International Hotels director Peter Brunt was also unconcerned by the statements, arguing that pubs stuck in an ‘80s timewarp would be snapped up by new buyers with an eye on current and future trends.

“The Good Pub Guide’s dire forecasts have certainly stirred up a hornet’s nest in the trade but it is fairly obvious that poorly performing pubs stuck in the 80s will go to the wall.

“However, we are experiencing very strong demand at the moment and I believe there are plenty of buyers out there ready to have a crack at the right pub in the right location.”


In response to Roger Protz's comments, co-editor of the Good Pub Guide Fiona Stapley said: "Roger Protz is talking through his hat when he says the Good Pub Guide is concerned only with gastropubs. Our concern has always been with what pub-lovers generally want, and we are pretty sure that that's why the Guide is the still the UK’s best selling guide book.

"It covers the full extraordinary range of individuality that good pubs offer. Our annual awards for Beer Pub of the Year and for Unspoilt Pub of the Year go back several decades, and like many of our awards have absolutely nothing to do with food.

"We obviously hope that people will read what we actually said, in context, and not just react to excerpts taken out of context."

If you have any comments about the statements in the Good Pub Guide 2014 contact Ellie Bothwell

Related topics Other operators

Related news

Show more