It's best to embrace change in the pub industry

By Barry Gillham

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Pubs Leasehold estate Public house Property Fleurets

It's best to embrace change in the pub industry
The licensed trade might appear to be forever switching lanes but, as Barry Gillham finds after 50 years in the business, it is better to embrace change than fight it.

You hear a lot of people complaining about constant flux in the licensed trade but in my 50-plus years with Fleurets, I have prospered from change.

When I joined Fleurets our main income came from tenancy changes. In the 1970s the breweries realised that they could make more money out of converting their best pubs to management. Many long-standing tenants were given notice to quit and the volume of “changes” went through the roof!

Give it 20 years and many marginal pubs were losing money under indifferent management. It was my job to find lessees to put these pubs back on the map. Most pubcos today run only managed or tenanted pubs and there is no scope to transfer pubs from one division to another. Failures have to be sold and again Fleurets were at the forefront of this.

The breweries had been selling ‘bottom of the barrel’ pubs fairly steadily since the early 1980s and I acted for many in these disposals.

The trickle became a flood in the last 10 years and Fleurets picked up a large slice of this business. Although 50% were sold for alternative use we now anticipate selling rejuvenated freehouses as they are once again turned by their owners.

I was involved in the negotiations that resulted in the formulation of the Inntrepreneur lease and Fleurets were the main letting agents for Vanguard (Allied Breweries) and Bass lease — with six page ads in the Morning Advertiser! We dealt with literally hundreds of lettings.

Another aspect of change has been in the ownership of pub estates. I was appointed by the Australian owners of Foster’s when they bid for Allied Breweries and subsequently bought Courage and John Smiths. This led to Fleurets valuing 5,000 pubs over a 13-week period. It also led to me being booed at a trade dinner for being instrumental in “selling British pubs to foreign owners”. Remember Japanese Nomura also then bid for Inntrepreneur (now Enterprise Inns) which ran all of Watneys pubs.

Throughout my career I have embraced change and if I were to give any advice it would be to look for the next big wave and make sure you are riding it rather than being swamped by it!

Barry Gillham is chairman of Fleurets

Related topics Property law

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