Fools Rush In
So it was disappointing to hear William Lees-Jones, Chief Executive of local brewer JW Lees, claim that “MPs don’t really know what they’re talking about”. Now one’s natural inclination may be to agree immediately, but what exactly has got Mr Lees-Jones so riled?
The use of restrictive covenants. Yes, he was actually trying to defend the indefensible. This practice of pub owners selling a pub but preventing its reuse as a public house has long been discredited and is blatantly anti-competitive. Even the evil twins of publand-Enterprise and Punch-have recognised this and pledged not to use them.
However, according to Lees-Jones:” MPs don’t realise that we have a situation of over-supply, so it doesn’t matter what we get for that pub, it’s good business for the pub industry to have one less pub.” This is pure nonsense of course and smacks of childish “I’m taking my ball away and you can’t play”.
Greg Mulholland MP, a true friend of the pub-goer, unlike Mr Lees-Jones responded with “It is silly and unhelpful and he should show a bit more maturity”.
He added: “The fact is that restrictive covenants often steal pubs from communities despite local opposition, simply to suit the commercial interests of the pub owning company. If, as is often the case, another company or individual want to take on and try to make a success of that pub, it is quite wrong for one company to prevent that, simply to try to get those customers to use another of their pubs up the road”.
To paraphrase the Hobgoblin advert-"What's the matter Mr Lees-Jones, afraid you might have compettion?"