Campaign for Pubs

Campaign for Pubs challenges the validity of the Pubs Code Adjudicator’s decision to suspend the Pubs Code

The Campaign for Pubs, the national grassroots campaign group representing pubs, publicans and pub-goers, has written to Fiona Dickie, the Pubs Code Adjudicator (PCA), challenging her decision to suspend the Statutory Pubs Code which covers both England & Wales. Further, the Campaign for Pubs considers that the different lockdowns in England & Wales, and the localised tier restrictions in England, now allows all tied pub tenants who will be affected by a downturn in trade to seek a free of tie rent review (the Market Rent Only option).

The Campaign for Pubs letter follows the announcement from the PCA that she has approved the Declaration by the regulated pubcos which excuses them from abiding by Statutory Pubs Code deadlines during the lockdown of England, from 5 November to 2nd December. The Campaign for Pubs questions the legal powers by which the PCA and Pubcos are acting as the Pubs Code is a Statutory Instrument which only Parliament may alter or suspend.

The Campaign for Pubs also questions the rationale for using this Declaration, which was used during the national lockdown earlier in the year.  The validity of the decision this time, with the current lockdown applying only to England, yet with the Pubs Code applying to England and Wales.

At the same time, the different restrictions in England and in Wales also have different impacts for pubs in England and for pubs in Wales, with pubs in Wales being permitted to open again on Monday 9th November with different restrictions. So the fact that there is now divergence between England and Wales, and the tier system causing further divergence in England,  means that these different events must be triggers for a Market Rent Only (MRO) option, the right to go free of tie and seek an independent rent assessment.

So the Campaign for Pubs has called on the PCA to withdraw their agreement to the Declaration and to update their guidance to inform all tied tenants that they may trigger the MRO option.

Gary Murphy, Campaign for Pubs PCA Liaison Officer said:

“It is an incredibly odd and seemingly “ultra vires” move by the PCA to seek to suspend the Pubs Code for the England-only lockdown. This at a time when tied pub tenants are really struggling and there would now seem to be an opportunity for tenants to obtain a rent review using the legislation. The PCA needs to review their position with reference to what is in the best interests of tenants.”

Greg Mulholland, Campaign Director of the Campaign for Pubs and the person who led the Fair Deal for Your Local campaign for the original legislation that introduced the Pubs Code said:

“It doesn’t make sense that the Pubs Code Adjudicator has effectively suspended the Pubs Code for Wales as well as England, when the lockdown that has triggered this decision is only for England. So we urge the PCA to publish any legal advice she has had concerning this decision, which we believe is invalid.

“We also call on the PCA to stand up for tenants’ rights laid down in the Code and declare that all tenants of the regulated pubcos have the right to pursue the Market Rent Only option and go free of tie. This would give a better and more sustainable future for pubs, something that is crucial in helping pubs get through the current crisis caused by Government Covid restrictions”.