Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Alcohol Education and Research Council’s symposium on home drinking

It would appear that some discussion not motivated by political dogma of the issue of home drinking has been going on ... there are some great statistics from the symposium from research report in Addiction journal, based on interviews with ‘ill drinkers’ in Edinburgh. As reported in the Morning Advertiser.

"The report’s aim is to support the case for minimum pricing by trying to demonstrate that it will have a significant effect among heavy drinkers in reducing their consumption. I’m not sure it succeeds — and neither, for that matter, are its authors — but some fascinating stuff is thrown up in the process.
The interviewees, patients at two hospitals in the city, were very heavy drinkers indeed, sinking an average of nearly 200 units a week, equivalent to 100 pints of cooking bitter or, more realistically but no less frighteningly, a bottle of vodka a day.
Quite a number exceeded 300 units. One managed 800 units. That’s what I call a drink problem. They were paying an average of 43p a unit, comfortably below the 50p a unit touted as a minimum – and that’s only the average. Cheapest unit price paid was 9p – for two-litre bottles of white cider in the supermarket.
Compared with the general Scottish population the patients were paying 29p less per unit and there was a clear inverse correlation between the amount consumed and the price paid for it, right down the line.
If it’s just the ethanol you’re after that’s rational behaviour, of course. And if the report demonstrates anything, it is that drinking at these undoubtedly dangerous levels is largely an off-trade issue.
Only a quarter of respondents bought any drink at all in the pub or club, and on-trade purchases account for a mere 7.4% of total units consumed.
“Our clinical experience,” say the researchers, “acquired unsystematically from drinkers’ self-reports, suggests that it is sometimes preferable for a dependent drinker to drink in a pub or club where there are external controls on the amount consumed and the level of intoxication and also possible mental health benefits of social interaction.”
Intuitively, this has to be correct, but you crave something more scientific to back it up and, as yet, it doesn’t seem to exist. Which is what makes the AERC symposium interesting, and I look forward to reading the briefing paper that comes out of it, to see what I missed.
As for whether minimum pricing, or any other price constraint, can reduce consumption, the report is honest enough to say that we can’t know until we try it. Charging 9p a unit can’t be right. But price is only one factor in a "multiplicity of determinants that cause people to drink like this."
How can HMG ignore such findings and refuse to do something about the reckless behaviour of supermarkets? Still an administration that keeps putting off scrapping Trident (cost estimated to be £25 billion) whilst imposing the biggest cuts in living history to other public services (if you can call Trident a public service) is hardly surprising!

Sunday, 5 December 2010

And so this is Christmas ...

... and what have you done?

A question that many of us will be asking our "political masters" or the Coalitionistas as I like to call them.

So what has this unholy union of Liberals and Tories done for the much-beleaguered UK pub trade in their first six months in office?

Cast your mind back to the "bonfire of the quangoes" - in their unrelenting pursuit of deficit reduction (at all costs save those of their respective vested interests) - the axe was wielded on a couple of hospitality industry bodies - the Alcohol Education Research Council (AERC) and the Security Industry Authority (SIA).

The AERC’s main aims are to: “Generate and disseminate research based evidence to inform and influence policy and practice” and “to develop the capacity of people and organisations to address alcohol issues.”
Both worthy aims and the AERC has, during the last five years, concentrated on family interventions, community action programmes and screening plus brief interventions for alcohol misuse. They are a repository of a vast library of reports and research into the effects of alcohol that both government and industry readily draw upon.
The Coalition’s response to this sterling work? Cut its funding and turn it into a charitable trust – and we know how well charities do during hard times – especially if their not the cuddly / furry types. Good call Mssrs Clegg and Cameron; at least they’ll be able to use dogma and prejudice to determine their alcohol harm reduction policy without the inconvenience of a publicly funded body calling them to account. After all the AERC will just be another bleeding heart charity soon!
This as they do significant U-turns on combating below cost sales of alcohol by the off-trade (most notably the big supermarkets) which are widely accepted to be a major factor in alcohol abuse (from the health lobby to the police); at the same time the government has allowed back-door powers to ban such innocuous promotions such as pub loyalty cards. Could it be that the pub industry doesn’t contribute as much to party coffers as the supermarkets?
Talk about schizophrenic … this as we are all about to suffer an increase in VAT to 20% in the New Year. The supermarkets will undoubtedly swallow up the VAT increase and continue their irresponsible “deep discounting” whilst pubs won’t be in a position to do the same and their prices will inevitably have to rise. I would contend that this will drive more consumers from the safe and supervised environments of pubs into unregulated homes and street corners and the ensuing increase in anti-social behaviour will still be blamed on pubs!
Then there is the SIA – set up to regulate the security industry (including door-supervisors or “bouncers” as they are so charmingly referred to at times) when the industry was unable to “self-regulate” and was rife with thugs and criminals. The SIA has had two main duties: “The compulsory licensing of individuals undertaking certain designated activities” and “To manage the voluntary Approved Contractor Scheme”
These duties have been admirably fulfilled by the SIA since its inception in following the enactment of the Private Security Industry Act 2001. Is this wholly necessary public body to be applauded and receive continued public funding – no of course it’s not! No, the industry is to return to “self-regulation” after the Olympics in 2012 (we’ll need a credible vetting service for the industry for this international event) – shame we didn’t get the World Cup, then it might have survived until 2018! 
I could go on about the Coalitionistas much vaunted review and reform of the licensing regime, their U-turn on live music provision in pubs, the disproportionate burden their pension reforms will have on small businesses such as independent pubs … but I probably lost you way back.
If I didn’t lose you then think on about what sort of society you want to live in, because one without pubs in all their myriad incarnations will be much the poorer for their absence.
Anyway – Bah! Humbug! And All That To You All!

Monday, 29 November 2010

The Onward March Of The Undemocratic Beaurocracy

Isle of Wight Pubwatch has announced a partnership with the NHS in a bid to reduce alcohol-related disorder.

Representatives from the Isle of Wight NHS will attend meetings between the pubwatch, will speak on behalf of the HNS and nominate trouble makers for pub bans.

Whilst I appreciate the concerns of health service workers and the abuse and violence they suffer at the hands of drunks, I can't but help think that this amounts to little more than a kangaroo court. No evidentiary proof, no right of reply and the "court" imposes sentence without recourse.

I for one would not like to be on the end of the inevitable court cases that will flow from this ill-conceived initiative.

Far better for the police to secure prosecution with meaningful punishment and restoration than this vigilantism.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

on trade to shrink to 30% of beer sales by 2018 ... SHOCK! HORROR!

So the head of Molson Coors, Mark Huner, predicts ... well no surprise there with all major brewers bending over and taking it like good 'uns for the supermarkets is it?

And whilst I'm on the subject, with news that Tesco is to slash the price of spirits in the run-up to Christmas — despite admitting "it is not necessary and is financially damaging". (Tesco spirits manager Mark Sudbery told the Metro) it's no wonder the British pub is buggered.

I am just amazed at the hypocrisy of these people, just goes to show that the never-ending pursuit of profit goes before all other considerations, including their duty to be responsible retailers.
Still time to go to local council licensing committees and report such irresponsible behaviour - if only we had a campaign to report these flagrant breaches of the responsible retailing guidelines (and if only the guidelines had some bite!) After all it is the British taxpayer that picks up the bill for these loss leading strategies and in these times of austerity surely this is irresponsible and reprehensible?
Seems to me that the predictions indicate a vast shrinkage in on-trade volumes and that can only mean one thing ... more pub closures.
I predict that the on-trade will have become polarised to an even greater extent by then with managed (food-led) operators leading the market at one end (with cheap on-sale pricing being a major factor in their alcohol sales) and at the other end highly skilled independent operators (probably mostly in the free of tie sector) succeeding with innovative offerings with unique points of difference.
The real losers will be run of the mill tied operators, who become increasingly cash starved by the rapacious activities of their landlords and the tax collectors who simply give up the ghost.
Remember Keynes said " the market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent"
He also said "The biggest problem is not to let people accept new ideas, but to let them forget the old ones." and "The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones" - these statements are a quandary for the pub trade ... how can we evolve when the thing we most cherish lies in the past (the traditional pub) if only he were alive today to add some sage words.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Hobsons' Choice - be green and produce great beer

Shropshire-based Hobsons Brewery, founded by the Davis Family in 1993, scooped the awards for Best Overall Business and Best Green Business at the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) Brewing Business Awards yesterday.

Hobsons was praised by judges for its "exceptional attitude" towards quality and the culture of local brewing; to which can be added praise for employing 14 local people and producing the highest energy efficiency industrial building in Shropshire.

The brewery has reduced its carbon footprint by 17.5 tonnes over the past three years after designing its own solution to recover heat from its cold barrel store to heat its bottle conditioning room as well as installing a wind turbine and a rain harvesting system.

For more details on how Hobsons reduced its carbon footprint, see the video here:

What a fantastic achievement for both their brewing and their commitment to the environment - small is beautiful after all! Their website is at:  

Cask Marque - the true sign of success

"Pubs accredited for the quality of their beer, under the Cask Marque scheme, have grown by 13% over the past year.
Cask Marque estimates that 6,900 pubs will have achieved accreditation by the end of the year.
Around 90% of those who achieve Cask Marque accreditation renew their annual membership. A recent survey revealed that 46% of cask ales drinkers are aware of the Cask Marque plaque." - Morning Advertiser 17/11/10

This, along with CAMRA's unceasing efforts to champion the cause of small brewers and cask ale, is great news for an ailing trade. If one thing will help us to differentiate ourselves from the on-trade and justify the price premium we publicans have to charge it is the Cask Marque scheme. 

With such high brand recognition I am surprised that more licensees, who stock and serve quality ales, do not take up membership. Carry on CM - long may you continue.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Times gone by and times remembered ... The Licensed Victualler's Association

Back in the day when publicans were respected members of the community (you went to them for references, to get your passport photo endorsed etc) who had the active approval of magistrates and police (not the tacit approval of elected politicians under the 2003 licensing regime) and who were very much in touch with the communities they served things seemed a little surer and a lot more "civilised".

So news that the Federation Of Licensed Victuallers (even the name is redolent of a more pleasant era) has shown a recent resurgence is very welcome. This writer, at least, looks forward to their increased presence in the pub industry, they have the cultural and political heritage to go where some of the single issue groups purporting to represent this industry cannot venture.

The old associations, based locally with a national federation, did sterling work to represent their members' interests (both tied and free of tie) and their broad remit to see that all sectors of the pub industry worked together has been beyond groups such as Fair Pint, Justice For Licensees, Freedom To Choose. These latter day "campaigning" bodies have only succeeded in further fragmenting an already disjointed trade, who, once the Beer Orders disassembled the age old relationships between brewers and publicans, were left voiceless and leaderless.

As I have said here and elsewhere the trade needs a unified and cogent voice to lead us through these most difficult of times and the FLVA (although only 16 years old) and the local organisations it represents (going much longer) has the potential to fill that gaps.

visit their website for more information:  http://www.flva.co.uk/

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Who says snoozing is a waste of time and what pubs truly have to compete with ...

According to the Press Association "lazy Britons waste 91 hours per year by hitting the snooze button" - and with all the air-borne bomb scares and such - was it really that slow a news day?

I would like to say a couple of things about that:

a) isn't it time we all "wasted" a little time in our rush, rush, hurry, hurry lives?

b) isn't it just the most delicious thing, that warm, comfy half-asleep, half awake feeling?

... and talking of delicious things ... it finally dawned on me what pubs really have to do to be successful and lure us and our ever-decreasing discretionary income into their environs.

Last night (a blustery, autumn Friday) 5 friends convened in a domestic kitchen and this was what was on offer:

aperitifs - cointreau, single malt Scotch; Moroccan style chicken, cous-cous with fine green beans, the last of the garden's new potatoes; a selection of Turkish sweets, upside down ginger & pear cake; a fine pale craft brewed ale from the cellar below the kitchen; espresso and frothy milk; great chat, subtle lighting, eclectic mix of music in the background

we worked it out (ex-capital and overheads) cost to 5 of us twenty-five quid-ish

until pubs and other licensed venues can do that for, say, sixty/seventy-five quid (£12 to £15 a head for you Saturday morning readers) then I fear that we will ultimately only be left with the managed chains churning out their bland, homogenised mediocrities ... not exactly firmly in "Cooking Lager's" camp but I begin to understand what he's on about a bit more.

oh and tomorrow, despite having an extra hour in bed, I shall be hitting that snooze button at least once ... happy hallowe'en!

Friday, 29 October 2010

Get with the program peeps!

If you’re not already engaging with your customers via the internet and their smart phones then it really is time you joined commerce in the 21st century.

Google’s report on the worth of e-commerce to the UK economy makes interesting reading, 7.2% of British GDP (expected to grow to 10% by 2015); 73% of households with an internet connection and 62% of all adults buying goods and services online.

There is not doubt that the internet has transformed the way we communicate with each other, get our entertainment, shop and take in information; what many pubs have yet to do is seize the marketing power of the internet to advertise their goods and services.

I am constantly amazed at how few pubs have websites or use social interaction sites such as Facebook, when their respective licensees must see, on a daily basis, their customers using this technology. After all who hasn’t been in a pub or bar and seen the glow of smart phone screens and the frantic double thumb tapping of the “connected”?

Even when you do find websites for pubs they are often clunky, poorly designed, uninteresting and often full of out of date information.

The days of just opening the doors and waiting for customers to appear are long gone, now more than ever, with people cutting back on their “out of house” entertainment pubs must not only provide value, service and uniqueness but they must interact with their customers both on the premises and off.

Probably preaching to the converted on a blog, but you never know the message might get back to some of the luddites out there in the trade.

Don't put up your prices ... take less profit

Horizons, the hospitality industry analysts report a 5.6% increase in the average cost of pub grub. Even with 3.8% global food inflation this means pubs are charging more for their food beyond margin protection.

Whilst I had to remain competitive against all the managed offers that are available I took the deliberate decision several years ago to reduce my GP on food to 40%.

By doing this I was able to source quality ingredients, many locally sourced (but especially meat and poultry), go with the seasons and serve decent sized portions.

Not only did it mean a consistent food trade, but also is a great PR success - our Sunday Lunches, for instance, were the talk of the area and always over-subscribed.

It may not suit all venues but I would recommend this as a strategy if you think you will be able to make up overall net profit on throughput.
Consumer confidence is still low and many potential customers will be considering reducing their eating out in the face of continuing austerity.

Offering value for money and quality may well be the key to success in the coming years and if operators can manage it they should resist the urge to increase retail prices in the face of increased costs.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Purity, the latest to announce expansion plans ...

In these days of gloom and doom, what a refreshing change to hear the latest news from Purity, the Warwickshire based brewery, that they are undertaking a major expansion, this along with Joules being resurrected, Castle Rock in Nottingham growing and many other micro breweries opening and increasing their output.

Whilst the big boys continue to pump millions of pints of homogenised ales into the market place these smaller craft brewers are fast becoming the saviours of the British brewing industry. Long may it continue.

Now is the time for the coalintionistas to take action to encourage and protect this growth sector of the economy and put in place measures that will reduce the tax burden and over-regulation of the brewing and pub industries.

210 M.P.s have signed an early day motion calling on the government to do just that for "well run community pubs" ... now if they'll do something to relax the smoking ban as well we might see a halt to the decline in beer volumes and pub closures ... not holding my breath for either.

If you want to support the call for the EDM email your MP via the CAMRA website :


Saturday, 23 October 2010

Destination pubs … or … just “destination pub!”

Amazing how surveys come up with their results isn’t it? A report in the Morning Advertiser on the 22nd October, commissioned by the National Skills Academy Hospitality has shown that customer service is rated higher in destination pubs than community pubs.

Hardly surprising in some respects, when carried out by The Mystery Dining Company, when the sample only included some 18% of pubs and bars out of 1122 businesses in the hospitality sector.

I think it’s a shame that community pubs aren’t trumpeted about a little more … they provide friendly, welcoming oases in the desert that is Britain in the age of the Big Society. Places where you can meet your mates feel part of a “pub family” and just hang out for a moderate price, basking in the bonhomie of your host(s) and staff who know you on a continuous basis, rather than the hour or two one might spend in a destination venue.

With all the talk of having to train your staff in “flirting” as an upselling strategy and the Academy’s suggestions on staff knowledge and customer engagement it makes you wonder how “traditional” local’s pubs have survived this long without all this sage advice.

No shame in being a pub and “just a pub” and although only 15% of all pub goers would recommend venues to friends, I’d hazard a guess that a far greater number actually do support and recommend their local than that.

If you want to read more of their drivel see:

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

now is the time for all right minded people to come to the defence of beer!

You may or may not have noticed that this week is Alcohol Awareness Week 2010 and the prohibitionistas from Alcohol Concern and other nanny state cronies are imploring us to be aware of the harm alcohol can do.

Whilst I applaud their stance on reduction of harm, prevention of harm to children and young people, what sticks in my craw is the demonisation of ordinary folk who enjoy a couple of drinks with their friends and family.

Their activity is spookily similar to the anti-smoking brigade and we should be worried by that  ... look at how successful that was.

Sharing a beer (buying a round) is so widespread culturally and across the world and has been part of the fabric of societies for millennia, from ale wives to brewsters and brewers as a species we need to gather and have the odd drink.

The prohibition experiment in the USA failed and only brought about the implacable rise of organised crime that has blighted their society for nearly a century now. I for one look lousy in a zoot suit and fedora and tommy guns and sedans with running boards are so difficult to acquire these days!

seriously though lies, damned lies and statistics ... Alcohol Concern are very selective in their information

trends for male mortality 1991-2004, grew from 9.1 to 17.6 deaths per 100,000; for women 5.0 to 8.3; all very alarming I'm sure, but what they forget to mention in their most recent information(2009) is that only NE and NW of England are worse than the earlier figures.

what they should concentrate on is social deprivation for the 1991-2004 figures show shocking death rates amongst the worst off in society - for instance in the NE 40 male deaths per 100,000 and NW 55 male deaths per 100,000; female rates 20.4 and 27.2 respectively

surely they should be campaigning to eradicate poverty and social deprivation as a major cause of alcohol related deaths, something neither Tory or Labour governments have managed to tackle instead of having this blanket ban approach.

I also note that as of writing their "Overexposed" report on alcohol marketing is still not available to view on their site despite their press release.

PS - source for above HMG, National Office of Statistics

and for Scotland (from the General Register Office of Scotland) :

"Main points

In 2009, there were 1,282 alcohol-related deaths (on the basis of this definition), a decrease of 129 (9%) compared with 1,411 in 2008. Of these 1,282 deaths, 837 were males and 445 were females.
Table 1 shows that the numbers of alcohol-related deaths for both sexes were relatively stable during the 1980s, but there were significant increases, particularly for men, during the 1990s and early 2000s. The largest numbers, and largest increases, were in those aged 45-59.
In recent years the numbers of male deaths have generally been falling and female deaths appear to have stabilised."

and lest we forget ...in 2005 the definition of alcohol related deaths was widened across the UK to include additional causes of death with a clear causal relationship to alcohol consumption ... so how much has this distorted figures in the last five years... bit like crime figures or unemployment figures ... all subjective in the end.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

OFT ... no surprise there then ... can't wait for it to be merged with the Competition Commission

Clearly the OFT will not be swayed in this matter at present, despite a pseudo-consumer group such as CAMRA making their super-complaint.

The OFT will not have been blind to the political implications of acceding to this petition and have no doubt observed the players involved and their respective affiliations.

It is now time for tied tenants to galvanise the support of the vast number of loyal customers who are being put at a disadvantage by the tied model in the UK pub market.

It isn’t for CAMRA (good as their intentions were) to organise a super complaint it is those who are directly affected by it i.e. tied tenants and through them, their customers.

I believe that the only way that the OFT will consider this matter and live up to their remit (which I quote from their own website) is if there is a legitimate ground swell from consumers:

“The OFT's mission is to make markets work well for consumers. We achieve this by promoting and protecting consumer interests throughout the UK, while ensuring that businesses are fair and competitive.”

The incessant bickering and internecine squabbling must stop in the licensed trade if we truly believe that the tied model is bad for tenants (as consumers of the pubco/brewers’ goods and services) and our customers need the OFT’s protection.

Only question is how do we go about it? Jaw Jaw or War War? 

for the full story see Morning Advertiser

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Free at last ...

nothing to do with beer, pubs or anything in particular ... just wanted to say Chilean miners rescue has warmed the cockles of an otherwise cynical heart!

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Why corporate responsibility must be more than "window-dressing"

If companies are to be taken seriously about their stance on corporate responsibility then they must actually take responsibility.

Many of you will have read of the tragic death of a Liverpool licensee, Paul Lee, when a faulty gas-fire caused him to experience a heart attack, from which he subsequently died.

The owners of the pub that Mr Lee rented, Enterprise Inns, had not properly inspected or maintained the gas fire in Mr Lee's pub and were found guilty of Health and Safety breaches incurring costs and a fine of £300,000.

As an isolated case it would be bad enough, but the Health and Safety Executive also discovered that Enterprise had failed to carry out 474 other inspections on gas appliances it was responsible for.

Calls from campaign groups such as Justice for Licensees have echoed the calls from Mr Lee's family for the CEO of Enterprise to resign and have now been articulated in an Early Day Motion brought by Mr Lee's constituency MP, Bill Esterson.

Mr Tuppen and Enterprise have remained silent on the matter but would do well to look at the words of Jane Simms in the Institute of Directors magazine from August 2009:

Corporate responsibility could be a saviour of British business if larger companies embraced the idea with more enthusiasm. But too many seem to have lost their moral compass .... The financially driven and short-term culture endemic in so many large organisations is at odds with the more inclusive and longer-term approach to a range of different stakeholders that being “responsible” implies.

The result is the kind of moral bankruptcy that we see in corporate attempts to force through “payments for failure”. It is also evident in the big pub companies’ abuse of their tenants—the majority of whom earn less than £15,000 a year—as revealed in a Business and Enterprise Select Committee report"

That or stand as accused by Joel Bakan in The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Power - 

"Corporate social responsibility, though sometimes yielding positive results, most often serves to mask the corporation's true character, not to change it."

From the mouths of babes .... and idiots!

Further to my last post regarding one Jonathon Downey who had the gall to lecture the pub industry on how it should adapt to meet increasing pressures ... this from a man who is so obviously out of touch with the majority of licensees in this country ... the decent ones who don't "have a sex room" at one of his establishments - something he seemed quite proud to boast about in an interview with Urban Junkies

Monday, 11 October 2010

The Stuff of Life

What a brilliant day Saturday, lie in, pootle about for an hour or so then out to a local community event in Nottingham, called “The stuff of life”.

Picture one of those lovely London squares (you know like the one in Notting Hill) with the railings and the trees and all the houses round the edge. Fill it with local artists hanging their pictures off the railings, throw in a half a dozen craft makers showing and selling textiles, ceramics, jewellery, hand made books and then add some laid back acoustic bands and a smattering of kids running around being kids and you have the perfect way to wile away a few hours.

If only pubs (those with a carpark/beer garden) would realise that they sit at the heart of their respective communities and get involved they would have a ready made, loyal and lucrative core clientele. Run by the local residents’ association who organised this without a penny of council money this is the sort of thing that pub’s are the natural venue for.

Only thing missing … a decent beer (had to settle for a few take outs from the local shop) … but hey if it was organised in a local pub …

… which we found not too far away with a great selection of local and regional ales (all 8 in very good condition ... we stayed a while) served by helpful and pleasant staff … attached to which was not only a carpark (at least 20 spaces), an outside terrace (heated shelter, seats  for over 40) and sizable lawned area (enclosed with at least 8 picnic tables) … and how busy was it? Apart from half a dozen in the bar and the same again outside this sizeable establishment was empty … only a matter of time before the tumbleweed rolled on by! (Yes and the staff confirmed this was usual for them)

Perhaps a stroll down the road and engaging with the local community might see the place buzzing and the tills ringing!

Friday, 8 October 2010

Don't teach my grandmother how to suck eggs ....

Jonathan Downey managing director of The Rushmore Group, a collection of urban bars in London and other major cities, was asked by ALMR chief executive Nick Bish to speak at its autumn debate last week and propose the motion ‘It’s last orders for the British Pub’.

Apparently he thinks that the only ground-breaking advance in the pub industry was the introduction of Sky in 1989, whilst changes to society and improvements in living conditions have elicited no response from the on-trade. Utter bunkum.

He said: “Whilst clearly no one really believes the pub is on its last legs, the industry is under attack from all sides and the message here is clear — as an industry, we first need to accept that there is a lot we should be doing for ourselves if we are to have any hope of making some of the essential changes needed to maintain a thriving business.”

If you want to read more of his self-satisfied rambllings see:

So tell us something new Mr Downey ... despite the best efforts of individual licensees who have and still provide(d) comfortable, safe, value for money pubs, many have continued to fall by the wayside, bludgeoned down by crippling rents and taxes, beset by cheap supermarket sales and bound up in a death shroud of red tape ... grandma used to say " there's no such thing as a bad  pub, only a bad publican" and that a "pub is just four walls, it's what you do with it that counts" ... she would, however, be quite literally spinning in her grave (if she hadn't been cremated) to see what is happening to her beloved trade (of over 60 years) ... perhaps you have found a lucrative niche of well-heeled customers for your outlets (whatever "urban bars") are... not all licensees share your good fortune.

It is facile and patronising in the extreme to suggest that the ills that have befallen this industry stem from an inability to change ... my grandmother regaled us of times long gone by when the rise of the Kinemas and the Wireless were innovations (in a time when there were very few restaurants and most pubs served little more than curled up sarnies and pickled eggs) ... the British publican is by and large an extremely adaptable and industrious entrepreneur ... but faced with overwhelming odds not technological advancement s/he is struggling to survive the perfect storm that pubco's, supermarkets and HMG have brewed up.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Trading Standards Institute - nanny goes too far!

Trading Standards don't you love 'em? Amazing isn't it during a period of spending review, budgetary constraint, austerity measures et al that TSI wants to take over elements of policing and regulatory control in the licensed industry.

Call me a cynic, but with pubs continuing to be the whipping boy of successive administrations, it's just great to see all these government departments scrabbling for funds and jumping on the bandwagon.

Surely the police and licensing authorities have sufficient powers to enforce licensing legislation?

And why the emphasis on pubs? I don't know the figures but I would hazard a guess that more underage sales take place in the off-trade than the on-trade and that the off-trade is far more aggressive and irresponsible in its pricing policies than any pub.

Still, it's not surprising given the Coalitionistas muddled and ill conceived thinking on licensing and many other issues.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Enterprise Inn(s) the dock again ...

So another corporate entity is found guilty of Health and Safety breaches and another life lost. (see MA article below)

Whilst I have every sympathy with the family and friends of Mr Lee it does beg certain questions for all of us in the hospitality industry.
Whether a landlord has the legal responsibility to carry out safety inspections or not will be determined by an individual's tenancy or lease agreement and as such the authorities have clear recourse in law to deal with any infringements.
Enterprise demonstrably failed in this respect on this occasion and although the fine is a drop in their corporate bucket they have been punished. I do not know whether Mr Lee's family have been compensated or will seek compensation in the Civil Courts but trust that they are seeking professional legal advice on this matter. If they do go for Enterprise I wish them every success.

The tenant, however, has a higher responsibility, which is to ensure that (no matter what) the premises s/he operates is a safe environment for themselves, their families, their staff and the general public using those premises.

Regrettably it seems that in many situations a tenant's lack of financial resource is used to mask their inability (through lack of experience or knowledge of such things) or unwillingness to ensure that health and safety remains paramount.

I for one would seldom trust a pubco to fulfill its obligations and always guard against it.

So another Tory lady that’s not for turning!

So Theresa May and the Coalintionistas have had a good look at the licensed trade and despite representations from trade bodies, local councils, the police and individual licensees, the current administration is to blindly persist and “tear up ” the majority of the 2003 Licensing Act.

(see MA article) http://www.morningadvertiser.co.uk/news.ma/article/88522?N=598325&PagingData=Po_0~Ps_10~Psd_Asc

Whilst this ill conceived and dogma driven “review” was well consulted or not the fact is that it is upon us.

Local people, whether the trade like it or not, have always had a say over licensing (be it via police and council complaints under the pre-2003) and the trade must learn to operate within the communities they serve. (Although scrapping the concept of vicinity is bonkers.)

Late night? Depends on the definition thereof and we shall have to wait and see how that is interpreted. Observers are bang on when they surmise that the levy will go nowhere near front-line policing, just another “stealth tax” on this already tax-laden industry.

I welcome the stance on under-age drinking and look forward to some of the supermarkets (and others) that get caught out being shut down.

The ban on below cost sales of alcohol is similarly welcome and will go some way to address the disparity between on and off trade pricing. It is our job as publicans to ensure that we add sufficient value to justify the price premium forced on us (in many cases by the tie).

Perhaps some good will come of this after all, however, on balance I feel that this will be devastatingly injurious to some sectors of the trade most notably SME’s such as stand alone operators.

Friday, 1 October 2010

october has come and my friends tell me it's now wintumn (autumn/winter)

so have you got your staff to implement your Challenge 21/25 policy ... what you haven't written one? Tsk tsk ... next you'll be telling me you're not offering wine by the 125ml serving and haven't increased your minimum wage rate ... best you get on with it or run the risk of being named and shamed

see http://www.morningadvertiser.co.uk/news.ma/article/88488?N=598325&PagingData=Po_0~Ps_10~Psd_Asc

wonder if certain pub companies will be named and shamed for all the tenants they have who earn well below the minimum wage level for their efforts? somehow I doubt it