Fools Rush In

It’s never been more important for the pub industry to stick together and speak with one voice, even if this means facing up to some unpalatable truths. It’s also important that they don’t alienate potential allies as they need all the friends they can get.

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?"


Anonymous said…
Has he been drinking that pisswater he calls beer?
RedNev said…
I'm afraid his argument is simply refuted with one word: Wetherspoons. They have taken over failing pubs and turning them into almost overnight success stories. If they can make pubs that are, by Lees-Jones' logic, surplus to requirements, then there is no reason why the former owners couldn't have done the same.

Well, there is, I suppose: most pub companies are not good at the pub business. 'Spoons is a small player in the game (their pub estate is less than 10% the size of Punch Taverns') so, whether you like them or not, they have an approach to business that works, unlike - it seems to me - most of the big boys.
Barry said…
Very silly and unhelpful. But what do you expect from a middle of the road family brewer?
Dennis said…
I presume ROB Camra will be communicating their official displeasure. JW Lees'cask ales are already an affront to the beer drinker (except those with the most jaded of palates), now they show their politics to be an affront to any self-respecting pub goer! Perhaps they should stick to what they do best...Carlsberg
Martin said…
Talk about self interest! These pubcos want to get in the real world.But should we be surprised? They have been ignoring customers best interests for years.
Dr Doolittle said…
You are correct in asking what EXACTLY the local CAMRA will do about this. I have written to Lees BEFORE and received no response.
Anonymous said…
I hope that Tandleman when he next enjpys a meal of oysters with this gentleman will bring this to his attention.
Curmudgeon said…
@RedNev - although Wetherspoons may only have about a tenth the pubs as Punch, their sales will be much more than a tenth as their pubs are on average much bigger. And they wouldn't touch most failing pubs with a bargepole.

Two points on this:

1. It doesn't automatically follow that if you close Pub A, all or indeed most of its customers will redistribute themselves to Pubs B or C - they may well have very good reasons for not wanting to go there.

2. In most "overpubbed" areas there's now no shortage of closed pubs that would-be entrepreneurs could take over if they so wished, so it's hard to see what Lees are afraid of.

It would be interested to see an example where Lees-Jones thinks this policy has actually "worked".
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