Thursday, July 31, 2014

The World IS Mad

The world IS mad and these things are all the on the curve of a turning point.

The strife and brutality is shocking and alarming in its intensity and stupidity and sheer pointlessness. History suggests that humans need such vile events to shock themselves into better behaviour. The amount of understanding we have of human behaviour and global communications and social media makes it just possible for the first time in history that there may be enough informed people coming together at the same time having decided enough is enough, that they take up personal responsibility and act. Through petition sites and direct involvement in campaigns for common decency and fairness to prevail in society.

In other significant areas that don't hit the international media with such gusto as wars, terrorism and general bad behaviour, our activities in the realm of peaceful advancement are remarkable and exciting... The speed of our scientific and technological advancement is breathtaking and there is widespread international collaboration on all manner of schemes of global import being carried out successfully all the time. There's much evidence that a collective intellectual growth may yet outwit the forces of human greed stupidity and short term unsustainable excess that swirl all around the planet. We are learning how to plan and manage great, rapid change towards creating a properly sustainable future that can comfortably support 10 billion people living in improved conditions while promoting wider ecological diversity and making the planet a better place to live for humanity in toto than it has ever been.

The tension lies around whether the majority of world citizens respond to these events rationally and maturely and develop grass roots peaceful movements that are united by a common purpose of demanding a better more equal life for all people everywhere or whether we stand by the appalling inhumane events taking place now and allow the ignorance, belligerence and base stupidity of a relatively tiny minority of power hungry humans to prevail over the health, wellbeing and comfort of the great majority.

What I'm saying is: There IS hope but it's dependent on many of us making the effort to speak out for what is right for the majority and to hold a vision of a civilised world in mind and resolutely understand that this is achievable when we work together and use our collective power to demand a fair and sustainable world.

Hope this is intelligible. Optimistic it is. But we CAN do it. We just need to mobilise the common good.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Monday, July 28, 2014

Syston pub undergoes £320k makeover YAY!

This article is about The Midland Railway in Syston which, interestingly enough, seems to be on the market... I wonder whether Jane, the landlady knows that.

Anyway. Punch do comprehensively unimaginative refurbishments, that make all the pubs they've treated look like the same pub. it's very clever really, making a pub, whether its' red brick under slate or half timbered with thatch. look like it's part of the same anodyne chain concept when they are run by individual entrepreneurial publicans paying a pubco for a low cost entry into their own business... Magic, it is, and all part of the #GreatBritishPubcoScam. I've become adept at spotting these refurbishments a mile off.

This is a joint investment so the tenant will be paying for all new f&f from kitchen equipment to glasswasher and ice machine and TV screens and for surface decorations from paint and wallpaper to carpets while Punch will be responsible for structural. It's likely to make the pub busier. Whichever way it's done the rent will be higher than it was before the job - Punch expect to get all their money back and much more - on top of their previous profit grabbing position that persuaded the tenant to go the whole hog with them now.

Licensee Joanne Abbott said: ... "it will give it a fresher look" - for £320K I should CoCo Jane.

'The pub is expected to re-open in mid September.' Wonder who's paying for loss of trade and no income for 8 weeks or so?

Punch Taverns’ partnership development manager, Jon Harris, added:

“The pub has needed investment for some time and we want to give the community the pub they deserve." thinks: "(we're not really 'giving' the community anything at all, we project a 22% Return on Investment out of this job)".

At head office in Punch Towers it's trebles all round  - oh, and its' their tied tenant who is paying... for all their rounds.

Friday, July 25, 2014

To the uninitiated the pub sector is about going to the pub for a nice drink

It's a SCAM, of course it is. Pubs are closing unnecessarily because their freeholders take all the profit and leave nothing for the publicans. The publican's business fails, the pub closes, the pubco rents it out again, in need of extensive refurbishment it NEVER gets, new publican has all their profit taken by the pubco, this churn goes on until no one is crazy enough to take on the pub as a 'low cost entry into the pub trade', and the pubco flogs it off to be a Tesco local, a betting shop or residential and that is end of pub forever, and ever, and ever. No more community no more local no more traditions, heritage or sense of place. That's gone forever when, had the pub been looked after properly, the way all pub businesses need to be run, it would never have closed.

Behind the scenes of Britain's rural landscape and frenetic built up city centres there's a disease eating into the fabric of society. It's systemic to British culture - it's absolutely everywhere - nowhere is unaffected by the 
endemic rot in our pub industry and, though it is in plain view, in every neighbourhood and population centre from John O'Groats to Land's End, we've been largely blind to its happening, because there once were so many pubs and we've been distracted by lies and deceit and misrepresentations of the pub sector.

In response to this story in the pub trade's only comic, clunkily named The Publican's Morning Advertiser  Here's what one of my fellow licensees, another person who knows what's going on (because he's a licensee) said elsewhere today:

'So let me see, we had a lengthy (Business Innovation and Skills department) BISCOM inquiry, BISCOM result and recommendation, 12 months self regulation trial, review of 12 month self regulation trial. Consultation on a proposed statutory code, proposed statutory code and consultation on proposed statutory code, proposed legislation.

So this must be the consultation on the proposed legislation, to enforce the proposed, consulted and reviewed statutory code, following a review of trialed self regulation, after a BISCOM result of a lengthy inquiry?'

What does this mean? Whitewash in Whitehall is what it is. No MRO = No @FairDeal4Locals



Thursday, July 24, 2014

Mottingham pub handed Asset of Community Value status amid demolition row with Lidl

credit Bromley Times
Even though Bob Neill ex pubs minister and Brandon Lewis, most recent pubs minister, couldn't give a flying TOSS about pubs until one closes down on their back door step and they sniff a chance of a few votes from locals they did turn up for a photo opp together for the Porcupine. And manage to get all of it completely wrong. Pubs will never stop being under threat with people like these guys in charge of them.

The true Villain of the Piece here is not Lidl but the pub company who sold it to them for development. As is the case with thousands of instances of pubs being systemically asset stripped by their 'tied business model pubco' freeholders then, having been run into the ground, flogged off 'suitable for alternative use' to any buyer they can find.

Tesco have turned 200 pubs into Local shops in recent years and have been given a seriously hard time for doing it. The fact is Tesco are not responsible for ruining the pubs they buy - the pubco's who took all the profits from the pubs and ran them into the ground then flogged them off are fairly and squarely the guilty parties but they always get off Scot free in such situations.

It's a cultural crime these zombie pub companies are committing.

The words Greedy Heartless Bastards spring to mind?

This is taken from Britain's Lost Pubs, a Facebook group:

'This is one of the reasons pubs are closing:  This was copied from a friend's page who is a publican:

"Despite my request to Enterprise Inns for some discount on my beer or rent to help us through difficult times...
... they've put my rent up by almost £40 a month.  So I don't think they need any more nails - I'm out of here, whether I like it or not."

The words Greedy Heartless Bastards spring to mind?'

The value of the bricks and mortar for alternative use is one thing but in the meantime the pubco's (property companies as you point out above) Churn tenants through their pubs with a form of simple hidden corporate asset stripping that keeps the pubco's off the hook behind smoke and mirrors and makes the whole desperate plight of pubs across the country seem as though people are changing habits and going elsewhere for their entertainment. People ARE abandoning pubs but this is because increasingly, due to their being owned by big companies who don't give a flying toss about pubs - ie pubcos- the national pub estate is falling into dilapidation while the pubs sell expensive beer. People go elsewhere to get better over all value but at heart they still love pubs.

Pubco's do this by advertising pub leases at no premium which, by default are businesses that have already failed (or else the pub would not be available To Let) on the grounds that these represent a Low Cost Entry into the pub sector and a great opportunity to build a new business out of nothing, reap the rewards by building up value and goodwill then sell on the business in the future. The pubco's then charge rents that are too high (because it is such a great business opportunity people accept the rents as fair) while obliging tenants to buy beer through their own supply chain at double open market rates, on the grounds that their rents are cheaper than the open market, which is quite simply a lie.

The combination of high rent and supply prices depresses tenant profits, tenants are unable to invest in their businesses and eventually (usually within 18 months as it happens) leads to their business failure. The pubco then markets the lease again and another tenant comes along and repeats. Thus the term Churn - like butter out of milk. Once the pub is so run down through decades of chronic lack of investment that no one is crazy enough to sign another lease - the pubco puts the pub on the market freehold suitable for alternative use subject to permission - with a track record of the business having failed serially - for the above reasons.

The pubco's get away with it simply because it seems irrational to outside observers of the pub sector that one business's success (the tied pubco) is predicated on the serial failure of thousands of other businesses (the pubs).

The pubco's do this because sweating their assets so hard is the only way they can repay the interest on the gargantuan loans they raised in the 90s with which they bought the pubs in the first place. It is ALL about corporate greed and boardroom short termism. They - the pubcos - are trading while insolvent but with strong cash-flow (cash is king) that comes from those high rents and beer prices and the fire sale of their underperforming pubs that are proven to be no longer 'economically or financially viable'.

It is the #GreatBritishPubcoScam

The government knows what is happening but let it continue because they will NOT meddle in private contract.

The upcoming legislation regulating pub co bad behaviour was planned to have a Market Rent Option - but it hasn't. And so is a whitewash.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

What Makes a pub a Pub?

"If pubs are owned by people who love pubs, People will love pubs. If they are owned by profit focused companies, People will hate them"

Chris Roche, a friend who's an Architect said that on a Facebook post I captioned: 'Calling All Pub Lovers"

He said:

"Your point is well made
If pubs are owned by people who love pubs
People will love pubs
If they are owned by profit focused companies
People will hate them"

Calling All Pub Lovers
Chris said what I have been saying, in much more long winded way, for twenty years. Chris has seen me work like a driven slave, all night and all day, twenty days in a row, campaign, blog, lobby, shout, and cry, all about pubs. He's right. He got me thinking about pubs.

My boys are twelve and fourteen. They have grown up around pubs because among other things I am a publican and I love pubs and have lots of friends who also are people who are publicans among other things who also love pubs. Pubs are our LIFE (but not exclusively). To throw a little balance into the mix, their mother is a teacher and between us we have a wide range of friends from all walks of the world. So the boys have spent a lot of time going to pubs. They were born near a pub. Their first outing as a newborn, each, was to a pub. They are fairly fluent about pubs. They have a feel for what a good pub is and what isn't and that hasn't been proscribed by rules, it's been set by experience, discussion and observation of what happens in pubs. They know what they like. And, in fact, they have said to me, standing at the door of a 'Sizzling Pub' in deep Sarf London: 'We're NOT going in there dad'. Why? 'Just LOOK at it' pointing into the dismal interior, and that was when the eldest was nine.

Last year, when the boys were eleven and thirteen, we stopped off at the Pine Marten, a new pub just off the A1 near Dunbar.  In that past year on different trips we had been to many, many pubs around the country, among them the Snowy Owl near Northumberlandia (I know, I know) the Rashleigh Arms in Charlestown, St Austell.  As we were waiting for food to arrive at the Pine Marten, it crossed my mind that I had had exactly THAT feeling in three other pubs in the past year.  And I wondered whether the boys might have developed the same sort of pub radar...  So I asked: 'In the last year we've been to lots of pubs and restaurants and cafes and bars but this one reminds me of some of them in particular.  Does it remind you of any of them?'  In about three minutes they'd narrowed it down to this;  The Pine Marten reminded them both of Snowy Owl and the Rashleigh Arms.  They didn't remember the fourth that had crossed my mind in that moment - that was the Lindisfarne Inn - again on the A1, near Holy Island, but then we only walked in there and walked out once and on another occasion we parked there and Ed got out the car and looked through the window came back and said 'let's go home and have something to eat there'.

The point I wanted to make with the boys was then made in the conversation that followed:

'What is it that reminds you here of those other pubs?" They went on to list a whole bunch of items from music to the pictures on the walls, the carpets, the chalk boards, the menu presentation, what was on the menus, the smells, the way the staff talk to customers, the 'feel' of the place the way the toilets were decorated and the way the food was boring and even when it looked good, it was bland. There were positive things too but it got to the crunch when I asked:  'And what do you guess is it that links these pubs, with maybe 500 miles between them up and down the country, and makes them all 'feel' the same?'

And Ed said 'Are they all owned by the same pub company?'

GIVE ME A HIGH FIVE ED! You got it in one.

The Pine Marten is Marston's.
The Snowy Owl is Vintage Inns'
The Rashleigh Arms is St Austell's
The Lindisfarne Inn is owned by a small but fast growing company that's had a load of money pumped into it called Lindisfarne Inns (Bamburgh Castle) Ltd but whatever they are doing great. No doubt soon they will be bought by a big pubco.

The point about these pubs is they are all set up and owned and operated by completely different companies but they are all so alike that it's impossible to tell them apart.  Apart from being in different parts of the country and apart from 'branding' which in some cases even looks like its copied it from the others,  they are the same.  Identikit.  Anodyne.  Bland pointless pubs doing exactly the same mediocre characterless thing as each other and that is being pub not Pub.  There is nothing, nothing whatsoever, to distinguish them.  It's SUCH a profound thing this erasure of PUB from pubs that a close friend who LOVES pubs like I do actually broke down and cried when we were having Sunday roast from the carvery at the Rashleigh - the pub was no longer the pub she remembered from her childhood.  She said:  'It's just like all the other chains now, isn't it?  it's horrid'.  It was busy mind. So what the hell does it matter if it's a food and drink dispense machine now instead of a Pub?  When EBITDA is good, LIFE is good.

And you know what? When two boys age eleven and thirteen can spot it and the CEO's of pubco's don't care that they are running pubs, not Pubs, there's a sickness abroad, a disease, a plague, a pestilence. And Chris hit the nail on the head.

Thanks Chris. Brevity.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Wet Led Woes: the demise of beer only pubs

Colin Valentine, Chair of CAMRA has a very well written and interesting blog.

He's a passionate, well informed and serious appreciator of and writer about beer. 

There is a myth abroad in Britain that wet led pubs have no future. This has been promulgated by the British Beer and Pub Association to get their members off the hook when thousands of wet led pubs are failing all over the country. On the face of it it makes sense.

Two friends of mine who are award winning publicans (I have a LOT of friends who are publicans by the way) announced that they broke a £10K turnover target two weeks ago and that this has been repeated last week. Their pub is a small, privately owned free of tie and wet led (i.e. they don't sell food). Before they took on the lease three years ago this pub was a run down ticking over poor business with seemingly limited potential.

Before they signed the lease on this pub they had been lessees of a tied pubco pub not a million miles away where their business failed, while they had made this pub popular and very busy through their hard work and entrepreneurial endeavour the pubco kept putting up rent and beer prices and this made their business 'not economically viable'. They managed to get out of the toxic pubco lease and get this free of tie pub where they could try out their ideas and work to get themselves into the position they would have been in had the previous agreement not been with a bunch of asset stripping scamming fly by night white collar criminals called a 'tied pubco'.

One thing I really like about the pub sector is that publicans are never the ones with the voice about pubs and what's happening to them.

When something goes wrong in the pub sector the publicans are the last people that anyone comes to to ask: "What do you think is wrong?"

Mind you, on the rare occasions when they do get asked something they usually get it wrong. Antony Worral Thompson got onto a Dispatches programme a few years back (I think it was called 'Calling Time on the English Pub' or something like), because he was 'a pub operator' and he talked total and utter bollocks with great authority, pretty much proving that he had done little homework about the pub sector before he went into pubs, and his business folded within a few months of the programme.

Maybe no journalists or pundits wants to hear the deceitful story of cynical white collar criminal activity in asset stripping our cultural heritage. It needs to be more sexy, upbeat or downright scandalous rather than by a tale of stealth and smoke and mirrors in plain sight to make a good story.