Pubs code

MRO 'like playing a game of poker'

By Emily Sutherland

- Last updated on GMT

Phil Dixon: 'Think of it as a poker game'
Phil Dixon: 'Think of it as a poker game'

Related tags Liberal democrats Liberal party

Play cards close to your chest, says trade consultant Phil Dixon.

Tenants have been warned to play their cards close to their chests in the build-up to the statutory code and the market-rent only option, or risk being ‘sold down the river’ by their pub companies.

The legislation, due to come into force by June next year, will mean pubcos with more than 500 sites will have to offer tenants the market-rent only option, allowing them to break the tie.

Speaking at a British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) regional event last week, trade consultant Phil Dixon painted a worrying picture for vocal tenants.

“Think of it as a poker game. Do not play your hand. If you do, as a lady I know did — someone who has campaigned against the tie and criticised her pubco at every opportunity — saying ‘I can’t wait for the MRO and to never buy my beer from you again’, you might wake up and no longer be a tenant with a pubco with over 500 pubs. You might be sold down the river or, in her case, down the NewRiver.”

Dixon also expressed fears that the legislation would be hampered by the near wipe-out of Liberal Democrat MPs in the general election. “The political landscape has changed since the legislation came in. It was driven by the Lib Dems, and now they aren’t there to push it, there isn’t any passion behind it,” he said.

The claims were rubbished by surviving Lib Dem MP and pub-campaigner Greg Mulholland, who told the PMA: “There is plenty going on and plenty of passion too. There was an excellent trip to Scotland to discuss the campaign north of the border. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

Much has been made of the legislation’s ‘unintended consequences’, which Dixon maintained could leave licensees worse off and leave the trade lumbered with out-of-date legislation.

He said: “The statutory code will be black and white; there will be no grey areas, no challenges and nothing subjective. Self-regulation can evolve and adapt to changes in the industry, unlike a concrete statutory code.”

Tim Hulme, BII chief executive, added: “Our sole focus is to ensure that our members have a full understanding of the consequences, what it means for them and importantly to provide an independent viewpoint that allows them to make an informed decision so that they can continue to thrive and grow their businesses in the most effective way possible.”

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