The Small Business Enterprise and Employment Act (SBEE) allowed licensees to be offered a market-rent-only (MRO) option during certain events such as rent review and lease renewal and also identified the rights of brewers to have their products stocked within their pubs. However, there is no clarity on this within the pubs code.
A Greene King spokesperson said: “Our view is that stocking rights are an important component of MRO agreements and we know that our customers would agree.
“We believe customers have a reasonable right to expect Greene King beer to be on sale in a pub that has our name over the door. There is flexibility for the tenant within our agreements both in terms of the choice of products and where to buy them from.
“The SBEE clearly identified the right of brewers to reasonably enforce stocking rights in their own pubs, and the subsequent omission of this from the pubs code creates an inconsistency and confusion. It is important that this is now cleared up for the benefit of all parties.”
The Pubs Advisory Service (PAS) has been asking for clarity on this issue since August.
Chris Wright, head of PAS, said: “I don’t know why we should have to go to the High Court to have this clarified.
“I have been asking for clarification since August. It should not take this long for the pubs code adjudicator (PCA) to clarify this.”
A spokesperson for Heineken said: "Parliament recognised that brewers that own pubs (as Heineken does) should have a right to ensure that their own products are stocked, and that direct competitor brands can be restricted.
“This recognises the huge investment we make in our pubs, breweries and supply chain; and the importance we place in showcasing our own brands in our own pubs.
“Nobody expects a Costa Coffee owned outlet to be permitted to sell Starbucks, or a McDonald's to sell Burger King, and there is no difference here. We are confident that our position is within both the spirit and letter of the law as it was intended."
A spokeswoman for the PCA said: “Paul Newby, the pubs code adjudicator, is considering this issue and will publishing some code clarification very shortly."