Big Interview – in association with Long Live the Local

'Boris Johnson seems to enjoy a pint. It’s time to help us'

By Nikkie Thatcher

- Last updated on GMT

Duty bound: former Bake Off winner Candice Brown explains why she’s trapped in an upside-down pint glass and gives her take on the trade
Duty bound: former Bake Off winner Candice Brown explains why she’s trapped in an upside-down pint glass and gives her take on the trade

Related tags: Legislation

Since winning TV show The Great British Bake Off, Candice Brown has not rested on her laurels and one of her latest objectives is to take the fight to save pubs to the Government.

Long Live the Local campaign timeline

Candice brown

July 2018: Campaign launch

September 2018: 19,000 pubs support the campaign

October 2018: 48,000 write to their MP

October 2018: Jodie Kidd delivers petition to No.10 with 117,000 signatures

29 October 2018: Beer and spirits duty freeze announced

January 2019: 2019 campaign and petition launches

August 2019: 25,000 pubs support the campaign

October 2019: 100,000 write to their MP

October 2019: Candice Brown delivers petition to No.10 with 200,000 signatures

November 2019: Autumn Budget cancelled

December 2019: General Election

January 2020: New MPs in Westminster

January 2020: Campaign achieves 250,000 signatures milestone

February 2020: 127,000 write to their MP

February 2020: MP debate on pub and bar taxation

March 2020: Spring Budget

April 2020: 2020 campaign and petition launches

April-July 2020: Government alcohol duty review

December 2020: Autumn Budget

After winning The Great British Bake Off ​in 2016, one could be forgiven for taking life a little easier but not Candice Brown.

Being the daughter of licensees meant the pub trade is in Brown’s blood so when the opportunity to buy her own came about last year, she grabbed it with both hands.

Brown took on the Green Man in Eversholt, just outside Milton Keynes in Bedfordshire, in February 2019, where it offers seasonal dishes, stunning wines and cold beers – all in a cosy, vintage style setting.

The child and dog-friendly pub has been recently renovated with an “epic” beer garden and outdoor bar.

She says: “When I was growing up, my parents ran several pubs from London to Essex to Gloucester and so on.

“They were all family-friendly and the punters were all family friends. For some people, it is their only form of contact. It’s a place where they come to meet friends, read the paper and have something to eat.”

Kitchen overhaul

Candice (2)

Brown outlines her biggest challenge in the run-up to opening some 12 months ago was food-focused. She explains: “As soon as we reopened the pub, we had a huge dinner booking for a group of young farmers – they are huge in the area and I didn’t want to say no.

“The only problem was the kitchen was in dire straits.

“Ben, my brother and business partner along with my husband Liam and I, spent the entire weekend beforehand, cleaning it, with the help of my parents – it was a real family effort. We all mucked in to make sure it was fit for purpose.”

When it comes to the challenges for the trade overall, Brown is heavily involved with the Long Live the Local​ campaign, which is calling on the Government to cut beer duty.

She even trapped herself in a giant pint glass outside parliament in a bid to highlight the impact of beer duty and calling on the Government to cut beer duty in its 11 March Budget.

She says: “It’s no secret UK beer duty is crippling the entire industry. We face a range of huge financial pressures such as VAT, staff costs and of course, extortionate beer duty rates.

“The average pub pays £140,000 in tax every year – how is it economically viable?”

Brown estimates if beer duty rises and there is no tax relief, this could force large numbers of pubs across the UK to close.

She adds: “The last time there was a sustained increase in beer duty (between 2008 and 2013), beer sales dropped by a quarter (24%). This meant 5,000 pubs closed their doors, leading to 58,000 pub and brewing-related jobs being lost. I would hate to see us in that situation again.”

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Government must listen

A cut to beer duty would solve this issue, Brown says, even a drop of 1% or 2% would ease the pressures against publicans.

“As soon as I was approached to get involved in the campaign, it was a no-brainer. If I can help keep one more pub pouring pints, I would have helped a cause close to my heart.

“This isn’t just a cry for a cut in beer duty, it’s people’s livelihoods and customers’ way of socialising in their communities. The Government needs to listen to the 250,000 Brits who have signed the petition,” she explains.

“Boris [Johnson] seems to enjoy a pint and is always talking about the positive role pubs play in the community and economy. It’s time to help us.

“We need to make waves so the Government understands how many people support a cut in beer duty. The Long Live the Local petition has been signed by a quarter of a million people and 130,000 have written to their MPs.

“The more signatures on that petition and letters written to local MPs, the harder it becomes for parliament to ignore high beer duty rates for pubs.

“We need people’s support from all walks of life across the country and across all constituencies and political parties.”

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An emblem of the high street

Brown outlines something that is no surprise to the sector but hammers home just how important pubs are to communities, more so than outlets in the off-trade.

She says: “Pubs and breweries add £23bn to the economy. On average, each pub adds £100,000 to its area. But pubs are more than that. Pubs are where families spend Sunday lunches in and among friends, it’s a space that is open to all and promotes togetherness, community and shared interests.

“Where else can you go and watch a sporting match with your mates? I don’t know a lot of shopping centres or restaurants that let you bring your dog in with you. Pubs are both part of our urban towns and countryside.

“They are an emblem of the local British high street and the heart of a quiet village. Pubs are a part of British heritage and they should be protected in the same way a library is granted support from councils and the Government.

“UK beer duty is four times higher than any other European country, with one in every £3 going to the tax man.

“Currently, 54p in every 5% ABV pint is beer duty. That is 11 times higher than Germany or Spain.

“The difficulty we all face is choosing whether to hike up the cost of a pint to reflect the high beer duty rates or reduce profit margins in order to keep these costs down to keep punters happy. Either way, someone loses.”

Offering so much more

When it comes to tapping into her past experience in the trade, Brown highlights how diverse pubs have had to be in order to adapt to the ever-changing, promiscuous consumer.

“High street pubs have had to adapt and become community hubs. They are exciting venues with different events to entice a varied audience. Any one pub can host a stag do, corporate Christmas party, a book club and a parent and babies gathering on any one day,” she adds.

“For this reason, I would say pubs have changed massively. They have a wider offering and are keeping up with modern consumer needs.”

Related topics: Legislation

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