Skip forward to today — the All Parliamentary Select Committee unanimously recommended a Market Rent Only (MRO) option after four inquiries.
The pubcos and regional brewers took umbrage and, just like in the 1980s, submitted their own self-regulatory proposal. That didn’t work and, thankfully, Government accepted that voluntary regulation changes little so produced a statutory code proposal.
The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), formerly the Brewers Society, has not unveiled its strategy but we can expect them to undertake a similar PR campaign to that of the late 1980s. Their campaign will call on MPs to criticise the Government’s plan and claim anything positive relating to pubs is as a result of their continued, unregulated, existence.
All but one of 29 members of the so-called ‘family’ regional brewers are also members of the BBPA, the only other members being pubcos.
This relationship has helpfully created an environment where a relatively small number of businesses can use the 20,000 or so UK-tied pubs to foist on the consumer a series of heavily marketed brands to the virtual exclusion of the 1,000 or so micro-brewers of Britain.
Some might say this is the cartel the OFT failed to identify.
In the meantime, most tied tenants are unable to respond to consumer demand and are stuck in a time warp.
Simon Clarke is the licensee of the Eagle in Battersea and a Fair Pint campaigner
The income from the tenanted pubs of the regional brewers is a tiny fraction of their revenue so the MRO proposal, even if chosen by all of their ‘happy’ tenants, would barely dent the coffers. But they are bound to the BBPA and will oppose Government proposals because otherwise it introduces what they have sought to avoid — competition between pubs.
We have not seen a reform opportunity like this since the Beer Orders. I’d like to think that the brewer and pubco influence has diminished and Parliamentarians are no longer so easily led, having noticed their favourite constituency pubs disappearing.
I hope naivety has been replaced by a cold realisation there is something drastically wrong with the way the tied-tenanted estates are run by brewers and pubcos alike, and something has to change.