Pub Spy reviews ‘damaging’ pub business, says petition

By Georgina Townshend

- Last updated on GMT

Potentially damaging: The Argus Pub Spy reviews slammed
Potentially damaging: The Argus Pub Spy reviews slammed

Related tags Review

A petition, allegedly set up by Brighton publicans, is claiming that a local paper’s review column is damaging pub trade in the city because it has become more interested in writing “click-generating content” than providing a “balanced review”.

The petition​ follows hot on the heels of a recent review by the Pub Spy, an anonymous reviewer from The Argus​ newspaper, who gave the County Oak pub a negative write up.

The review, which has made national headlines and become one of the most read articles on paper’s website, said the outlet was “not for the faint-hearted and surely the worst pub in Brighton”.

Argus​ group editor Andy Parkes told The Morning Advertiser​ (MA​) that while this was “one of the hardest hitting and harshest” reviews, there were a wide variety of both positive and negative articles from the Pub Spy​.

However, the petition, which does not mention any particular review, claimed the Pub Spy “often lies about events”, simply wishing to “write hilarious but fictional encounters which damage business”.

‘Industry-wide’ condemnation

A statement with the petition claimed it has been organised by the staff, managers, and owners of Brighton’s pubs and bars who wanted to express “industry-wide” condemnation of the column.

However, the petition does not include the names of who created it, or any of the establishments that support it, but told media-sector trade magazine Press Gazette​ that it had the approval of “a good 80 industry member people before the petition was put online”.

The statement with the petition said: “We have long embraced the fact that reviews from professional critics and customers alike are part of the hospitality culture.

“However, it is clear that the Pub Spy is not interested in providing a balanced or even informed review of the establishments he visits, rather he or she is producing click‐generating content at the expense of these local businesses.”

‘Not simply light-hearted fun’

The petition, which currently has more than 180 signatures, stated that the articles “are not simply some light‐hearted fun”.

It criticised the column for its comments about pub employees, saying “the staff who your columnist flippantly and arbitrarily either praises or insults have jobs that are directly affected by this".

“Staff work extremely hard to contribute to the vibrant culture of our city and it is hugely insulting and disheartening for them to have their efforts reduced to snippy one liners by a writer who has no interest in providing genuine feedback.”

Wide range of reviews

In response, Parkes said he believed it would be inappropriate to apologise, as the article was a comment piece, and it would go against free speech to do so.

“I am disappointed that they feel the need to raise this petition,” he said. “If they took the time to look at the other reviews, they would see there is a wide range. Clearly people have to be free to comment, the petitioners can’t threaten to withdraw adverting against us and decide what the newspaper will publish.

The Argus​ has always supported restaurants and pubs in the town, and realises they are the heartbeat of the city.”

The MA​ was unable to obtain a comment from the County Oak before publication. 

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