CAMRA national chairman Colin Valentine has appealed to Lawson Mountstevens, managing director of Heineken’s pub arm Star Pubs & Bars, in an open letter on the beer body’s website ahead of a Punch shareholders' meeting to vote on the proposed takeover by Heineken.
Valentine has voiced concerns that the acquisition could lead to reduced competition in the on-trade beer market and result in limited choice for licensees and customers.
Maintaining choice for drinkers
The letter asks the Star Pubs & Bars boss if the pubco will ensure it maintains choice for drinkers.
It also calls for assurances that tenants will have the right to opt for a market-rent-only (MRO) option and to offer guest real ales from local breweries, which “cannot be considered a threat to a company of Heineken’s size”.
Valentine also asks if the company intends to continue to operate the vast majority of the acquired pubs as going concerns and to discuss its plans with communities before taking any decisions to sell pubs for an alternative use.
Positive investment improving pubs
Finally, he asked if Heineken would agree to further discussions with CAMRA following the buyout of the pubs in order to give further assurances about its plans.
Heineken has responded to Valentine’s positive comments regarding the pubco’s track record of investment in improving the pubs it currently owns.
A Heineken spokesman said: “We are pleased to note that CAMRA recognises the potential positive outcome of the Punch deal, and our strong track record of investment into the pubs we currently own. We will respond in full to CAMRA’s letter as soon as we can.”
Last month (January), the campaign group representing Punch licensees, the Punch Tenant Network, called on the pubs code adjudicator to clarify the position if Heineken’s bid for Punch is successful.