The Ye Olde Rose and Crown theatre pub in Walthamstow, east London, went free of tie (FOT) from Ei Group in November.
Viv Barrett has run the site with four other people for 12 years and said the team was excited to put its support behind smaller breweries moving forward.
She said: “It was a very nice feeling over Christmas and new year, when we were very busy, to be pulling a pint and thinking ‘ha, Ei isn't making any extra money for this pint’.”
“I’m 62 and all over Christmas I was like a giggly school girl every time I thought about it. It's a liberating feeling, it's like paying off your mortgage and you've suddenly achieved it.”
Although the site’s rent has increased by around £40,000 more per year, the figure is much less than what the site paid in its drinks before the agreement.
Barrett added: “We want to support our local brewing community, which is very supportive of each other and us.
“Those people need help with their business so it's a really nice symbiotic relationship now rather than not being able to use these people in the way we want to do. It's allowed us to build a local brand.”
Heineken is now the site’s main provider but takes up less than half the bar to give space to smaller breweries including Purity, Pillars, and East London Brewing Co.
“We wanted to change the ethos,” Barrett added.
Power in numbers
When asked what advice she would give other licensees considering going FOT, Barrett advised publicans to hire external legal advice and look to their peers for support.
She said: “We found having help in the negotiations took away some of the emotions of it because it is quite emotional when you receive yet another letter saying you might have to do this.
“There is power in numbers, so one of us would panic and the others would say ‘no it’s all right’.”
Barrett said at times she felt bullied by letters from the pub group, which outlined the substantial costs the pub could face if it opted to go FOT.
She added: “They weren’t actually saying you had to do these things but it was ‘you might’. It’s their way of trying to pressurise you to not go ahead with this process.”
An Ei Group spokesperson said: “While there were some challenges related to the pubs code, we actively engaged with the publican, and their representative, at the Ye Olde Rose & Crown, who had transformed the pub, to positively achieve an MRO agreement following an independent rent determination and wish them every success for the future.
“The pubs code is designed to offer publicans greater choice and transparency, so we remain fully committed to working closely with publicans to support their success whether under the leased, tenanted, free of tie, or managed model.
“We are also working closer than ever with the pubs code adjudicator to secure greater clarity and an improved level of service for our publicans, removing barriers to achieve MRO agreements.”