Fight is on to save pubs

Appeal for pub companies to axe crippling beer ties.

Appeal for pub companies to axe crippling beer ties. - Credit: Archant

PUB licensees in Clevedon are joining forces to urge companies to drop their beer ties to prevent their businesses from closing.

A number of pub companies insist tenants buy a certain amount of products from them as part of their contract for leasing the premises.

But publicans claim the ties bind them to inflated drinks prices when they could shop locally for cheaper products and pass the benefits onto customers.

Gary Searle, from The Salthouse in Salthouse Road, which is owned by Enterprise Inns, said: “A barrel of Thatchers Gold locally can be purchased from an independent retailer for £72, but I’ve got to pay £141.

“They take most of my profit and I’ve got to pay for all the heating, lighting, staff, coolers and gas just to serve that pint.

“There’s no hope for the pubs the way it’s going, it’s killing the industry. Some months I can’t take an income.

“I can’t see me being here much longer.”

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Lee Thorn, from Campbell’s Landing in The Beach, added: “Enterprise keep putting their prices up but we are still taking the same amount of money.

“We can’t put our prices up to match because people will stop coming to the pub. It’s a downward spiral.”

North Somerset MP Dr Liam Fox has written to Business Secretary Vince Cable to ask for the beer ties to be dropped.

His letter states: “There remains a real issue that publicans have to buy from their landlords, often resulting in prices for beer and cider which are way above the market level. Surely, if arrangements were restricted to having a proper market rent for the property, then it would be for the publican to work hard to make a profit on the added value that he or she brings to the premises.”

Dr Fox is now compiling a database of all the pubs in his constituency so they can see the different charges landlords are making.

But Will Smith, of Enterprise Inns, said many tenants recognise the benefits of the tied pub business model.

He said: “It provides them with a low cost of entry, giving them the opportunity to run their own business, and they receive the investment and support of a national pub company.

“Enterprise has worked closely with licensee groups over the past few years to develop new agreements offering greater flexibility for publicans, standard and incentive discounts and free-of-tie options.”