The pubco has slammed Richmond council’s Rugby World Cup licensing strategy as “confusing and disingenuous”.
Pubs are being told not to allow customers entry after 10pm, meaning fans attending late kick-offs at Twickenham Stadium during the tournament will have to travel outside of the borough for a post-match drink.
During England’s warm-up match against France on Saturday (15 August), fans were told pubs were set to close at 10pm — as a trial for the World Cup.
The council said the restriction was introduced on a voluntary basis, but Fuller’s insisted it never agreed to the arrangements.
Jonathon Swaine, managing director at Fuller’s Inns —which has a handful of pubs close to the stadium — told the PMA the company had been preparing for the World Cup for a long time and would not go along with the scheme.
“We have a group of operators who intend on running their pubs normally and we have third parties saying something different. It seems strange for an operator to be told when to close. The message the authorities is sending is disingenuous and confusing for customers,” he said.
“This is a chance to showcase how great British hospitality is. I don’t think it’s happening in Cardiff, it seems to be very specific to Twickenham.”
Fuller’s stance was backed by the British Beer & Pub Association. Chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “This approach is draconian and unjustified. It does not seem it will apply around other venues, and it will only encourage more rapid drinking prior to any closures.
“It is also very unfair on pubs that have been preparing to welcome those wanting to enjoy a drink after the game in the pub, and sends out the wrong message about Britain’s hospitality trade.”
Richmond Council said its strategy aimed to enable visitors to have an enjoyable experience before, during and after each match and for businesses to capitalise on the number of visitors during the tournament, which kicks off on 18 September.
“Evening kick-offs will cause pressure on the transport system as spectators and visitors seek to get home or to their hotels while minimising the disruption to the local area,” a spokesman said.
“Therefore a consultation with licensed premises was carried out, sponsored by the local Pubwatch Group. They favoured an approach that enabled pubs to voluntarily restrict entry after 10pm if the pub was full and this was trialled at the weekend. During the match, the pubs were quiet but were busy later as publicans, in line with the strategy, let people in.”
The spokesman added that the council and police would review the strategy in light of last weekend’s experience and in advance of the World Cup matches.
The PMA’s licensing specialist Poppleston Allen, said the scheme could not be enforced without specific conditions on a licence.
Managing partner Jonathan Smith said: “The risk would be that if a customer causes trouble after 10pm, the police or council could take the premises to review, and suggest the incident could have been avoided if they had stuck to the voluntary agreement.”