As Christmas approaches it is worth remembering that Jesus was born in stable outside a pub, so they've been a feature of life for many years! In all that time I doubt they, or the one million jobs they now support in the UK, have faced sterner competition.
With that in mind I took my place on the panel at the Tenanted Pub Company Summit, run by M&C Allegra, looking forward to first dialogue between both sides of the pubco debate in my three years of heavy involvement in the issue.
You see, until recently attempts to constructively engage with the campaign, have largely been met with silence and rebuttal. Something I have always found puzzling given our aims "Great British beer in well run pubs at the heart of the community" are so closely aligned.
What happened on the panel will live long in the memory of those who were there to witness it. There isn't much I can add to the commentary of Mr Mulholland's conduct that hasn’t already been said.
Beyond the insults however lay something far more concerning. A steadfast refusal to accept that landlord-tenant relations have evolved immeasurably since the dark days of the early noughties, and a lack of understanding of the consequences of the MRO legislation now soon upon us.
What a pity that every member of the panel wasn't there all day to hear first hand articulation by both sides of the ways in which relations in the sector have been revolutionised over recent years and their intensified fears for the future, namely:
- A real threat to the investment so important to keeping pubs competitive
- The reduction in opportunity for those wanting to run their own pub business
- The possible return of the pre-Beer Orders system of tied Brewery loans
In the crossfire I have one regret. Not tackling Mulholland's question about Punch being afraid of “fair rents.”
Punch offer fair rents now. Why else would applications to join Punch, supported by professional advice, have doubled in then last few years? Why do 95% of our pubs remain let on substantive agreements?
If we are "unfair" why do our tenants give Punch an overall rating just short of the industry average of 7/10 in independent surveys?
What Punch fears is the loss of beer margin so crucial in helping to fund our share of the £200m a year capital investment in tied pubs, not to mention the millions of pounds invested in people, especially those new to the sector by our award-winning New Business team
Unlike any other property rental model, the beer tie model shares risk between landlord and tenants. For landlord companies to do well we need our pubs and tenants to succeed and visa versa.
I hope the next generation isn't hamstrung by the fall out from the MRO and so urge the Government to implement proportionate measures
For every time a pub fails it costs Punch £50,000 before any tenant losses. Our fear is that higher fixed rents under MRO, and a starvation of investment, will do nothing to sustain pubs at the heart of their communities. With Punch left to pick up the pieces when things go wrong
The pub sector has spent a generation dealing with the unintended consequences of Lord Young's Beer Orders. I hope the next generation isn't hamstrung by the fall out from the MRO and so urge the Government to implement proportionate measures, overseen by the adjudicator, for the long-term good of pubs and those who work in it.
I hope that the summit, and especially the panel session, proves a seminal moment in this long running and acrimonious saga. A moment when both sides put history and emotion behind them and work together for the benefit of the sector
As Admiral chief executive Kevin Georgel so eloquently put it on the day, if Martin McGuiness and Ian Paisley can work for the broader good in Northern Ireland then history will look unkindly on us if we don't follow suit.
Imagine where we’d be if all of the energy and intellect expended in this debate was focused on getting 50 million UK adults back in the habit of going to the pub!
Andy Slee represents Punch in government discussions on the pubs code legislation