Ahead of the PCA’s deadline for evidence at 5pm on Wednesday 5 August, Dickie has recorded a video message recorded a short video message to encourage Star Pubs & Bars’ tied tenants to contribute evidence to her office’s investigation into the pub giant.
As reported by The Morning Advertiser on 10 July 2019, Star Pubs & Bars is subject to an investigation by the PCA which believes the brewer and operator may have breached the pubs code.
The office’s inaugural investigation comes as pubs code adjudicator Paul Newby and his deputy Fiona Dickie claimed reasonable grounds to suspect the operator of near 3,000 pubs has used “unreasonable stocking terms” in proposed free-of-tie market-rent-only (MRO) option tenancies.
Should a breach be found during the investigation, Heineken UK could face a penalty “well into seven figures” according to Dickie.
Appealing to tenants ahead of the deadline, Dickie said: “If you are a Star tenant who has been offered a market-rent-only tenancy or entered into one, we want to know what stocking terms you were offered.
“We need to be able to assess whether the pubs code may have been breached and the impact of those terms on you.
“This includes whether they have played any part in the decision you made about whether to go ahead with a free-of-tie tenancy or not.
“We are also interested in hearing if you had been told about these terms and whether or not they put you off exercising your right to ask Star for the MRO option.”
Dickie added that evidence submitted will help both her and Paul Newbie determine whether Star Pubs & Bars has breached the pubs code and what further action the pair should take.
She added: “Please take the time to provide this information. The pubs code exists to bring fairness to tenants and your evidence can play a significant part in helping the PCA to ensure that your rights are rigorously enforced.”
Contributing tenants will not be identified in the investigation report unless they give specific consent to the PCA.
As reported by The Morning Advertiser, Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars has said it will work with the PCA during an investigation into the operator’s practices.
A statement from the pub operator on 5 August – two days before the PCA’s deadline for evidence - explained: “We are continuing to co-operate fully with the PCA.
“This investigation applies to a very small proportion of our total pub estate – fewer than 5% of our 2,700 pubs.
“The legislation is clear that, as a brewer, we have the right to ensure that the pubs we own sell our beer and cider.
“This reflects the significant ongoing investment we make and the jobs we support in our UK breweries, cideries and supply chain.
“While the principle of the brewers stocking requirement is clear, this part of the new legislation is complex and not clearly defined in the pubs code.
“We, therefore, hope this investigation will provide the certainty and clarity that we have sought repeatedly over the past three years.
“We will, of course, co-operate fully with the PCA while robustly defending our position.”