Mick Dennison column: Calls for pubs watchdog

Mick Dennison
Mick Dennison

CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) has launched a petition to build pressure on the Government in advance of the Parliamentary debate taking place today, Tuesday, calling for a pubs watchdog.

The Government promised to introduce an adjudicator and Statutory Code a year ago but has so far dragged its feet on this issue leaving a frustrated frontline of publicans struggling to literally make ends meet.

CAMRA recognises that pubs are closing because of big pub companies squeezing the profits of publicans with costly rents and wholesale beer prices; the Government has also recognised this but until now has remained impotent on the subject.

At times, it seems to me that the authorities in the pub industry are, like the big supermarkets, in cahoots with Government and seem to be able to stall issues and decisions that would inevitably lower their profits. To be honest, profits are not that paramount with most publicans. It’s a living wage that is the issue.

A 2013 survey revealed that 57% of publicans renting pubs from large pub companies earned less than £10,000 a year – it would be easier on benefits! Typically, these publicans have to buy all their beer from their pub company/brewery and are forbidden to buy on the open market. This can inflate the cost to publicans by around 50p a pint. Campaigners are calling for publicans to be able to buy a real ale they could sell as a special and take the profit from that beer. They should also be given the option to choose a market “rent only” contract that would allow them to buy all of their beer on the open market from any brewer they chose.

Looking around the local scene it’s easy to see which pubs are brewery owned and which are free houses; you only have to look at the prices. May I say though, there are no publicans profiteering from what are perceived by the public as high prices – many are genuinely struggling.

Therefore, our collective fingers are crossed for a positive outcome of today’s debate in Parliament. However, don’t hold your breath. If anything is resolved for the benefit of publicans, it will probably take another two years for it to come to fruition.

If you are looking for a friendly landlord and regulars plus a warm welcome – support your local!