According to data provided by the office of the PCA, as of 31 March 2021 there were 8,692 sites under pubs code jurisdiction via the regulated pub companies.
These comprised 850 belonging to Admiral Taverns, 814 of Greene King, 907 owned by Marston’s, Punch’s 1,148, 1,839 at Star Pubs & Bars, and 3,134 belonging to Stonegate.
As reported by The MA on 18 July 2019, Stonegate Pub Company agreed to buy Ei Group in a deal that saw the operator’s estate rise by 4,000 sites – making Stonegate the UK’s largest pub owner.
Of the 583 arbitrations referred to the PCA since July 2016 when the pubs code came into force and the office of the PCA was established, more than 500 of which were completed. Of these 279 involved Stonegate or Ei pubs.
The number involving the other five regulated pub companies totals 248, according to PCA data – broken down as 112 involving Star Pubs & Bars, 52 Greene King, one Admiral Taverns, 49 Punch and 34 involving Marston’s.
According to the PCA’s data, 109 arbitrations were accepted by the industry regulator in 2016 after the pubs code and PCA were established on 21 July that year.
On top of this, 116 and 117 arbitrations were accepted in 2017 and 2018 respectively, before the number fell to 82 in 2019, 60 in 2020 and finally 51 in 2021 to date.
When it comes to market-rent-only (MRO) option notices, once again, 2016 proved the most active year for the office of the PCA according to figures from the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), with 241 notices accepted, 83 rejected and one withdrawn.
During the same period, some 218 full responses to accepted MRO notices were issued by the industry regulator, although no free-of-tie arrangements were agreed by new agreement and none were agreed by deed of variation.
Over the same period, 32 other new tied arrangements were agreed, and four tied tenants departed their pub.
In the years that followed, the number of free-of-tie arrangements agreed by new agreement peaked in 2019 at 51, while the number of new tied arrangements agreed by new lease hit a high of 21 in 2017 – a year in which the number of other new tied arrangements agreed hit 182 according to the BBPA.
On top of this, since the pubs code came into force, the number of MRO cases resulting in the departure of a tied tenant from a pub has totalled 104 – and totalled more than 20 in each of 2017 (26), 2018 (21) and 2019 (23).
Broken down by pub company, the total number of MRO notices received since the pubs code established a right to MRO were 623 by Ei or Stonegate pubs, 287 by Star Pubs & Bars, 191 at Punch, 117 by Greene king, 96 by Marston’s and 20 by Admiral Taverns.
According to the BBPA’s figures, as of 31 May 2021 there were 283 cases in which an MRO Notice had been received and accepted which were yet to be concluded.
PCA’s first investigation
What’s more, to date, the PCA has launched and completed one investigation which began in July 2019 after Star Pubs & Bars was suspected of breaching the pubs code by offering unreasonable stocking terms to tenants seeking to go free-of-tie.
The industry regulator concluded that the nature and seriousness of the 12 breaches uncovered had “frustrated the principles of the pubs code” and merited a financial penalty, which would act as a deterrent to all regulated pub-owning businesses from future non-compliance.
As well imposing a £2m fine, which is based on the turnover of the whole of Heineken UK, PCA Fiona Dickie has also demanded that Star Pubs & Bars make all its free-of-tie tenancies code compliant and to ensure future code compliance.