The operator of the Brewery Tap in Brentwood, Essex, Ian Boyd, has expressed concerns that the reopening of his pub under Ei Group’s managed arm Craft Union would be inappropriate for his small venue and its local community.
Boyd, who revealed that news of Ei's plans to reopen his pub as a managed house on 28 May left him “devastated” and “gutted”, explained that he grew concerned about the future operation of his pub, and its place within the community, after learning more about the Craft Union pub company’s emphasis on entertainment and value for money.
According to the Ei Group's website, one of Craft Union's ‘golden rules for success‘ is to offer “great choice and value for money for our customers – from varied drinks menus, to all the best sporting action, to pub quizzes and live music”.
Boyd, who has held the pub’s lease for 18 years and describes the Brewery Tap as “tiny”, told The Morning Advertiser that he sells alcohol at premium prices, operates an over-21s-only policy and avoids antagonising neighbours by not running an entertainment-led business.
“It cannot be a budget booze house because it attracts the wrong crowd and it's too small. You can't get the footfall in here to warrant serving beer at Craft Union prices,” Boyd explained.
He has since applied to make the pub an asset of community value.
History and charm at risk
A statement accompanying the petition on the Change.org, which had achieved 2,016 signatures at the time of writing, explains: “Ei publican partnerships want to take the Brewery Tap back and turn it into a soulless managed house that will lose its heritage history and charm.
“We, as a family, can retain the pub via a new lease or, better still, buy the freehold from Ei and run the pub as it deserves to be run.
“Built in 1855, the Brewery Tap was originally a working brewery serving the local Brentwood and Warley area with ale. The old brewery building has been converted into a small parade of shops leaving only the original taproom now known as the Brewery Tap.
“Our family has held the lease for 18 years and have built up a fantastic customer base for all to enjoy. Because of this success, I was expecting Ei publican partnerships to continue our working relationship by offering us an extension to the lease but, unfortunately, we were informed in late November they were taking it back to turn it into a managed house with no care to what will happen to us the surrounding areas and the local community. Through support, we have put a bid in to buy the freehold but told it was not for sale by Ei publican partnerships.”
Issues for nearby residents
Responding to the petition, Will Russell of Brentwood Borough Council explained: “The Brewery Tap is an historic place that serves a community conscious patronage. Turning this much-loved family-run pub into a discount bar will ultimately cause local issues for nearby residents.”
Moreover, Alex Burghart, MP for Brentwood and Ongar, commented: “The Brewery Tap is an iconic part of Brentwood’s social and business history.
“Popular with beer drinkers before modern craft beers, it offers everyone a great night out.
“The Boyd family has clearly worked hard to make it what it is today and I like to think it gives Brentwood people a choice of a smaller off-high-street venue to visit.”
The Craft Union Pub Company, a finalist in the 2019 Publican Awards’ Best Community Pub Operator category, recently opened its 300th pub, the Tivoli Tavern in Grimsby, Lincolnshire – where it invested £130k to refurbish the site.
Discussing the Brewery Tap in Brentwood, a spokesperson for Craft Union explained: “We are delighted to be taking over the Brewery Tap, Brentwood, next month.
“We believe that the British pub plays a vital role in the lives of its customers and our philosophy at Craft Union is to put brilliant pubs back at the heart of local communities.
“We are committed to nurturing this by investing in the pub by ensuring that we retain the tradition and the heritage alongside improving the quality of the community offer.
“We are meeting with the current publican shortly to discuss future opportunities.”