Following a week of intense lobbying by over 8,000 CAMRA members, MPs from all parties yesterday voted in Parliament to introduce a market rent-only option for licensees tied to large pub companies. Unfortunately our Reading MPs, both Tories, chose to side with big business, but the government was defeated 284 votes to 269…
This rent-only option applies to large pub-owning businesses with more than 500 pubs. Since around half of Britain’s 50,000 pubs fall into this category it is a very big deal. Pubs owned by the likes of Enterprise Inns and Punch Taverns are the primary targets; it is their reckless business practices that are mainly to blame for Britain’s pub closure crisis. Smaller pub estates, such as those owned by the independent family brewing companies like Fullers, Wadworth, etc., as well as managed pub chains like Wetherspoon, are generally well run and have therefore been excluded.
Besides providing the long sought after rent only option, this CAMRA campaign victory removes once and for all the beer tie from Britain’s leased and tenanted pubs. Licensees will now be free to buy beer any way they wish, directly from local breweries if they choose.
This is essentially the pub side of the equation that has fueled America’s microbrewing revolution. As this blog observed during its four years in Seattle, when small craft breweries and pubs are free to deal directly with one another it’s a win-win scenario. As demand for craft beer continues to grow, breweries expand, new breweries open, and new pubs are needed as outlets for all the wonderful craft beer coming on line.
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the rent only option for Britain’s pubs may be as important a factor for advancing the cause of UK microbreweries as the 1989 beer orders and the 2002 progressive beer tax that helped propel the industry’s growth up to this point.
I for one look forward to asking the lessee at our Greene King local, the George & Dragon, if he decides to go rent-only, will he invite Mike Tempest to come in and sell him a KeyKeg of his wonderful Wild Weather Ale so I can have some within walking distance.
One additional point worth mentioning, although it has nothing to do with beer or pubs. This vote was the first time since the 2010 general election that David Cameron’s government has been defeated in Parliament. It was achieved by the defection of coalition MPs joining ranks with Labour to get the measure passed. With Labour’s bill to repeal NHS privatization provisions due for Commons vote this Friday (Nov 21) I hope another defection will occur then the process of dismantling Cameron’s disgusting Health and Social Care Act 2012 can begin. 🙂