Fleurets: How the pub industry has changed in the last 50 years

By Barry Gillham

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Pub industry, Public house, Brewers

'The industry started to change post-WW2 when family brewers were obliged by death duties to sell out'
'The industry started to change post-WW2 when family brewers were obliged by death duties to sell out'
Fleurets chairman Barry Gillham is celebrating 50 years with the company. He reflects on how the pub industry has changed during the decades

When I started at Fleurets in 1964, the pub industry was run like the army. Brewery directors (invariably family members) were colonels or majors. They employed area managers who had generally been captains in their regiment and they, in turn, took on non-commissioned officers, full of spit and polish to keep the pubs clean and the customers in order.

Running pubs was often seen as a second career — especially for policemen. It was a hierarchy where everyone did as they were told. And it was not a full-time job; most people today think this is a modern phenomenon. Often the wife did what little trade there was at lunchtime, while the husband was host to his mates from the pit or factory in the evening. Many rural pubs also had a smallholding to augment the pub income or the husband worked on the land.

Pubs only opened for two or three hours at lunchtime and generally there was little trade. They then closed until 6pm or later. Pubs were near working places and going to pubs was an after-work, male activity. Sandwiches and pork pies were regarded as haute cuisine.

Valuations

The vast majority of pubs were run as tenancies. Brewers made their profits from beer and charged rents of about £5 per week — enough to do a redecoration every seven to 10 years. That was the way pubs were valued, at a price per barrel throughput. Profits method valuations only came about in the late 1970s when brewers had taken the best tenancies to run them under direct management.

There was quite a bit of switching of successful tenancies to management and failed managed houses to tenancies. There were very few freehouses. Breweries simply did not sell pubs. Tied leases only came about in the late 1980s. Rent reviews have really only been important since about 1980.

The industry started to change post-WW2 when family brewers were obliged by death duties to sell out. My old boss ‘Rex’ King claimed to have valued 25 breweries in 25 years. The real ‘big bang’ was 1972/1973 when Maxwell Joseph, who had made his money in property and hotels, bought Berni Inns (the forerunner of Beefeater), Trumans and Watneys. The country was in a deeper depression than we have recently suffered. As things gradually improved, I was asked to lead the valuation of his pub empire and to apply ‘market values’ instead of the old barrelage formula. And the rest as they say is history.

Barry Gillham joined Fleurets aged 16 in 1964. He still enjoys being a hands-on licensed property valuer, adviser and negotiator

Related topics: Property law

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