Having just opened our second pub, my partner and I recently paused for a moment to reflect on how we got here, and where we want to go in the future. With the price of freeholds being so expensive, we realised that none of our achievements or ambitions would be possible without the once-maligned tie.
When I was a pub manager wanting to strike out on my own, I felt like a 20-year-old trying to get on the housing ladder without the bank of mum and dad. A tenancy was the third and only way for me. Despite initial misgivings based on media reports, I’ve not looked back.
Three and a half years later, the £700,000 investment and the support that has come with it from Star Pubs & Bars have enabled me to convert my failing childhood local into a thriving hub. We’ve also just taken on the Extraordinary Hare at West Hendred – the village’s only pub – after a four-year closure. I’m now able to contemplate building up a small group of four or five pubs.
After 13 years as a pub manager, my dream of having my own pub – where I have the excitement and fulfilment of deciding what’s on offer – has finally come true. And I’m able to support my family and create jobs for 35 employees. It’s an opportunity I’d like to see remain open to aspiring young people working in the industry. People who, one day, want the freedom to be their own boss like me.
It’s not just about the industry or jobs though. The communities the Snow Goose and the Extraordinary Hare serve would be considerably poorer without the revitalisation of their locals. As I’m sure thousands of other licensees would say, the most satisfying part of having your own pub is being able to help people and good causes. Whether it’s a small spontaneous gesture – like giving a free takeaway meal to someone who’s having a tough time and doesn’t have the energy or inclination to cook – or a big event, such as our complimentary Christmas dinner for 90 senior citizens, we get to choose how we give back. Seeing the difference the pub can make to people’s lives is what I love most.
The tie has come a long way since I first started out in the industry 27 years ago. And being tied on most of my beers isn’t an issue – I get additional brand support and a range that my customers like. I’m free to stock local cask ales and I’m free of tie on spirits and wine. I get the support I need to help grow my business.
The tied model has had its share of detractors over the years, but time has moved on. From my perspective, it remains a vital business model that we should celebrate and preserve.