ACVs

Industry debates worth of ACVs after worrying pub closure figures

By Oli Gross contact

- Last updated on GMT

Community celebrates the Chesham Arms achieving ACV status
Community celebrates the Chesham Arms achieving ACV status

Related tags: Acv status, Public house

With claims that 29 pubs are closing every week, a controversial campaign has been launched to list more than 3,000 pubs as Assets of Community Value (ACV).

The campaign, launched by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), is in response to statistics from pub research specialists CGA Strategy, which claimed the net total of almost 30 pubs were lost each week across the UK in the past six months.

Along with this, CAMRA claims its own figures show pub closures consistently increased between 2012 and 2015.

According to the CGA figures, London and the south-east is the hardest hit with 10.2 closures per week, followed by the north and Mid Wales with seven, and then the Midlands with 5.8.

BBPA 'surprised' by figures

However, the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) said it was ‘surprised’ by the figures. Its stats showed the rate slowing in 2014, with the net closures as low as five in the year up to September 2014 in England and Wales.

Meanwhile, community pubs minister Marcus Jones said CAMRA’s figures do not represent the sector’s growing confidence. “We must be realistic that planning rules cannot keep pubs open that are not making money, therefore our broader strategy of lower taxes, less regulation and a growing economy is the best way to support a thriving and diverse pub sector.”

The Government is determined to protect pubs, he added, “Which is why we abolished the unpopular beer and alcohol duty escalators, cut business taxes for pubs and gave people the power to list their local as an ACV,” he added.

3,000 ACVs by the end of 2016 

CAMRA is now in the early stages of launching a fight back against the figures and is aiming to have a total of 3,000 pubs protected under ACV status by the end of 2016.

It said ACV listing does not force pubs to remain open, affect pubs being sold as going concerns, or delay sales if the local community does not object to the change of use of a pub.

It supports its campaign with the suggestion that ACV status can be particularly valuable for licensees tied to the large pubcos because it stops the pub being sold off without the licensee’s knowledge, and can be useful for all licensees as proof the pub is valued and well-run.

But the campaign has drawn criticism from the trade, with the BBPA not reflecting CAMRA’s enthusiasm for ACV status.

Concerns

Chief executive Brigid Simmonds said it’s appropriate when the pub is “genuinely of community and societal value”, but added: “We do have concerns that new planning requirements for pubs nominated/listed as ACVs may reduce their value, which has a clear effect not only on our members but also for independent pub owners.”

Both the BBPA and Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) strongly oppose blanket listing of pubs.

ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “We need to strike a balance, ensuring that we take into account
the needs of small businesses as well as legitimate consumer concerns.”

With 800 pubs currently listed as Assets of Community Value (ACV), CAMRA’s plan to increase numbers to 3,000 during the next year and a half will face challenges from the sector itself.

Licensees' opinion split 

One licensee, who wished to remain anonymous, said he was currently appealing a decision to list his premises.

“The reason pubs are closing is people aren’t using them. Putting ACV status on a pub isn’t necessarily going to save it. It’s a ludicrous law that’s wasting a lot of time and money.”

He added that having ACV status could reduce a pub’s value because it would be less attractive to buyers. “Pubs will continue to close if people don’t use them. People are only going to bid for it if it’s viable business,” he said.

However, some welcome the listing. Lucie Spooner, licensee at the Imperial Standard, in Aldershot, Hampshire, supports both the CAMRA campaign and her own pub’s status, despite having plans to sell.

She said being listed should be a “badge of honour”, and that she only wants to sell to someone who plans to run it as a community pub.

Use of the ACV listing has had some high-profile successes — the Antwerp Arms became London’s first community-run pub after being bought by a group of 300 who raised £285,000. This was made possible by achieving ACV status in 2013. Since then, the pub has beaten its financial targets.

Related topics: Legislation

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