Petition backing landlord after Punch eviction notice gathers pace

By Stuart Stone

- Last updated on GMT

Call to intervene: a petition has been launched in response to Punch serving notice to one of its licensees
Call to intervene: a petition has been launched in response to Punch serving notice to one of its licensees
An online petition calling on Punch to offer John Pybus of the Blue Bell pub in York a new tenancy agreement has passed 2,500 signatures in less than a day.

At the time of writing, 4,433 people had signed the petition which was launched at the weekend in search of 5,000 signatures.

The Grade II-listed Blue Bell, which dates back to 1798, is heralded as York’s smallest public house and the birthplace of York City football club.

Operator John Pybus, who has run the pub for the past three years under Punch, was served with a section 25 notice by the pub company in August after his filing of an application to operate free of tie and request MRO negotiations.

The petition to withdraw said notice, started by York CAMRA, states: “To Clive Chesser – Punch CEO.

“As CEO of Punch we call on you to intervene to withdraw the section 25 (lease termination and eviction) notice that was served on licensee John Pybus at the Blue Bell in response to his attempt to exercise his legal right to an improved deal under the pubs code.

“We note that the pubs code adjudicator has recently reiterated specific concern regarding the widespread use of section 25 notices in exactly such circumstances.

“We call on Punch to negotiate a new agreement with John, with terms that will allow him to continue his excellent work at this much-loved and iconic pub on sustainable terms.

“Your hostile actions towards John have been widely publicised and are well understood, not least by the regular customers who are the source of the majority of the Blue Bell's revenue, and who have made it very clear that they will not support the pub under the proposed retail agreement.”

Fierce opposition

The move by Punch has been met by widespread, vocal support for Pybus on social media and coverage of his case in the national press.

Responding to the petition’s launch, Pybus told The York Press​: “York is home to some of the best heritage pubs in the country and the Blue Bell has been serving the local community in the same format since 1798.

“From the early sense of the petition, it’s clear there’s a fierce local opposition to changing this tried and tested model.”

The petition follows an announcement by pubs code adjudicator​ Paul Newby that the office will gather more evidence on the effectiveness of the pubs code after compliance reports from Punch, Star Pubs & Bars, Greene King, Marston’s, Admiral Taverns and Ei appeared to confirm earlier research showing "significant barriers" faced by tied tenants.

Meeting arranged

A spokesperson for Punch said:"We have a meeting with our publican next week to discuss all opportunities available, however, it is important to assure the community that any changes made at the Blue Bell will not be detrimental to the style of operation nor will it impact the range of products currently available.

"Punch are passionate about pubs and we are committed to investing substantially in our estate. We have plans to invest £80m to develop our pubs over the next three years and the Blue Bell is one of the pubs identified.

"We recognise the importance of the character and ambience of the Blue Bell and any investment will be sympathetic to retaining these qualities and maintaining the existing charm.

"Our proposal is that the Blue Bell will be operated under the terms of a retail contract, this is the ideal opportunity for a self-employed publican to operate on a turnover share agreement rather than the traditional tied lease or tenancy. With most of the operational costs associated with running a pub being covered by Punch, this gives the publican the opportunity to focus entirely on delivering a great pub offer while driving sales and profit.

"The Blue Bell is a great pub and we are committed to ensuring that it continues to operate at the very heart of the community it serves.’’

Related topics Punch Pubs & Co

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