Licensee shares advice after ‘challenging’ free-of-tie battle

By Emily Hawkins contact

- Last updated on GMT

Keep at it: a publican has encouraged others to pursue a free-of-tie arrangement if they are thinking of it (image: Neil Theasby, Geograph)
Keep at it: a publican has encouraged others to pursue a free-of-tie arrangement if they are thinking of it (image: Neil Theasby, Geograph)

Related tags: Ei Group

A Sheffield licensee has said she wants publicans who are thinking about beginning the process to go free of tie from their pubco/brewery to know “there is light at the end of the tunnel”.

Operator Jill Marston-Revitt has finalised a free-of-tie arrangement for her site – the Malin Bridge Inn, Sheffield – with Ei Group after a 15-month negotiation. 

She said the process had been challenging but now she was excited about the pub’s future and would encourage other operators to begin the proceedings.

The process has taken much longer than it needed to, according to the publican. She said she found the pub company’s process bureaucratic and complicated. 

“People need to know that life is a learning process and if this helps one person get through the challenge – and it is a challenge – then I hope it helps somebody because it can be achieved,” Marston-Revitt added.

Red tape and politics

She said: “It's all red tape and politics, and it needs to be made simpler, definitely. Because [it is delayed] if you don’t get this [form] or that in by your 14 days.

“The reason it has moved on as quickly as it has is because I’ve not been dealing with the monkey, I’ve been dealing with the organ grinder.

“People need to know there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Publicans set to begin the process should seek the support of an accountant and a surveyor, she advised. 

The operator said: “Most of us we are working-class people. I employed my surveyor because that's what he does but that was at a cost obviously – that wasn't free.”

“Have your accountant there. My accountant has been with me every stage to see if it was worth me going down the free-of-tie route.”

Passion for the job

She has been running the pub for 23 years, with her husband Steve’s parents running it for 18 years before the pair took over as general managers. 

“I'm still very passionate about what I do. I love what I do, it is my home. I made a cocktail bar and smoking shelter [with] 30-odd benches outside."

“I have refurbished everything in the pub with no help from anybody, we've paid for everything.”

A Heineken bar will be installed shortly after the pair decided their beer portfolio was the best option for them. 

The inn is a “really proper community pub that everyone is welcome to come in”, according to its operator.

“There aren't many of our kind of pubs left,” she added.

Strength and sustainability

A spokesperson for Ei Group said it was collaborating with the pubs code adjudicator and operators to help improve the process.

The spokesperson said: “Ei Group is built on the strength and sustainability of our pubs, and we work closely with publicans to support their success, whether under the leased, tenanted, free-of-tie, or managed model.

“The pubs code is designed to offer publicans greater choice and transparency, and we have worked hard to ensure our publicans are aware of all the options available to them and have the information they need to request and consider an MRO (market-rent-only option) proposal.”

Related topics: Property law, Ei Group

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