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: