British Pub Confederation

Date: June 17, 2020
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Rent Code of Practice must be mandatory and meaningful or it will allow pubcos to rent licensees out of pubs

The British Pub Confederation, the leading voice representing pubs and publicans, has written to the Government calling for the proposed code of practice on rent during the Covid-19 crisis to be both mandatory and meaningful.

The letter, sent to Business Minister Paul Scully MP, has been sent by Greg Mulholland, Chair of the British Pub Confederation (and Campaign Director of the Campaign for Pubs) and Ian Cass, Managing Director of the Forum of British Pubs and Vice-Chair of the British Pub Confederation. The letter is on behalf of the Confederation – which comprises of fourteen organisations representing pubs, publicans and pub campaigners.

British Pub Confederation organisations and campaigners have contributed to discussions about redrafting the current weak Government draft and have worked with the tenants’ working group that has produced a redrafted version. However the Confederation also believe that to be effective and stop the ongoing exploitation of tenants by some pub-owning companies, it must be mandatory and clearly drafted to stop unreasonable demands for rent.

The Confederation have produced 5 key points that the Government need to address:

  1. The Code must be mandatory
  2. It needs absolute clarity on the percentage or methodology for sharing the financial impact of Covid-19 between landlords and tenants
  3. It needs an independently and fairly mediated dispute resolution service with the power to intervene in L&T Act commercial contracts, and to ensure fair and lawful dealing, for cases where the parties cannot reach agreement
  4. Assessment of any ability to pay any rent must not be based on some undefinable ‘ability to pay’
  5. This Code must not in any way affect the statutory Pubs Code and tenants’ rights under it

The British Pub Confederation and member organisations the Campaign for Pubs and the Forum of British Pubs have also said that independent tenants’ organisations must be properly and fully involved and in all discussions relating to the pub sector and properly engaged by both BEIS and the Pubs Code Adjudicator.

Government and the PCA both have a history of properly engaging only with the trade association of the pubcos and giant breweries (with several such companies currently in conflict with many tenants over lockdown rent demands) and other organisations who have pubco members or are funded by the pubcos. This must stop – and the British Pub Confederation and independent licensees’ groups must be properly and formally included so that the voice of individual licensees and pubs, not just property owners, is heard.

The British Pub Confederation are supporters of the No Pub No Rent campaign calling for companies not to charge commercial rent on closed pubs during the Covid-19 crisis and the Raise the Bar campaign, calling for Government support for community pubs of all sizes.

Commenting, Greg Mulholland, Chair of the British Pub Confederation and Campaign Director of the Campaign for Pubs said:

“The British Pub Confederation and the Campaign for Pubs welcome Government attempts to intervene and stop property owners, including large pubcos and breweries, from exploiting tenants, but the proposed code of practice simply doesn’t do that.  As it stands, it is not only toothless, but worse than that, it is drafted in such a way to unwittingly give carte blanche to the pub-owning companies to seek whatever rent they demand.

“We applaud the efforts of the tenants’ working group who have produced an important redraft to seek to address these issues and these changes must be incorporated.  However the track record in the pub sector shows that any voluntary code will fail and that we need a mandatory code to stop publicans being rented out their pub, when they have no trade or significantly restricted trade. We also urge the Government to finally, properly start engaging with independent licensees’ groups and not just those with pubco members or pubco funding. So we ask them to involve the British Pub Confederation, the Forum for British Pubs and the Campaign for Pubs in all sector discussions and task forces from now on, so that the true voice of licensees is heard”.

Ian Cass, Managing Director of the Forum of British Pubs and Vice-Chair of the British Pub Confederation said:

“The Forum of Private Business fully supports the British Pub Confederations call for government, to take notice of the work done by the “Tenant working group” on the code of practice on rent negotiations. In the case of the Hospitality sector it also makes clear the importance of true tenant representation when BEIS and government deals with pub related issues, it is vitally important at this critical time for the industry that they are hearing from true representatives of publicans, to avoid further issues but also look at opportunities moving forward, at a time when pubs really need help!”