After years of campaigning to save Britain’s pubs, a Cromford landlord is celebrating the opportunity to make a difference on a national level.
Dave Mountford, owner of The Boat Inn and representative for the GMB union, has been invited by central government to be a key player in plans to regulate ‘pubcos’ – the large firms that own thousands of bars and control them through agreements with tied landlords.
The outspoken publican met with Chesterfield MP and Shadow Minister for Business, Innovation and Skills, Toby Perkins, in November 2012.
Dave said: “I told Toby that something really needs to be done to reform the way the pubcos operate.
“The main thing I wanted to stress was the importance of having a ‘free-of-tie’ option for anybody who runs a pubco establishment. That way, a pubco could say, if you buy all your beer through us you get certain benefits, but you can waver those benefits to have the freedom to buy your own beer.”
As promised, Mr Perkins raised the pubco issue in the House of Commons, explaining that the system of tied licenses was “a significant cause of pub failure” and led to landlords losing their life savings, in many cases.
Shortly after that, business secretary Vince Cable announced that the relationship between pub companies and publicans is to be defined in law, and an independent adjudicator appointed to examine unfair practices in the currently self-regulated industry.
A period of consultation has now begun which Dave, as a representative for the GMB, Fair Pint, Support to Licensees and other groups will be involved with.
Dave said: “These reforms are absolutely vital and it’s important that we get them right.
“The overriding aim is that tied tenants should be no worse off than independent landlords.”
The reforms – which are expected to be revealed this Spring – will apply to companies with more than 500 tied leases, following evidence that smaller pubcos have behaved more responsibly.
The department for business, innovation and skills made clear it was not abolishing the beer tie.
It added that it was not advocating a “free-of-tie” option either, although it would consider the code including an open market review.
According to the latest figures, 18 pubs close every week and one billion fewer pints are sold a year than in 2008.