Campaign for Pubs

Campaign for Pubs writes to the pubcos’ trade association the BBPA demanding genuine rent relief and an end to tenant discrimination

The Campaign for Pubs has written to the trade association of the large ‘pubcos’ and giant brewers demanding genuine rent relief and meaningful support – and an end to the current discrimination against free-of-tie tenants.

The letter has been sent to Emma McClarkin, the Chief Executive of the BBPA (the British  Beer and Pub Association) whose members include the regulated pub-owning companies, all but one of whom have told tenants they will still need to pay rent during lockdown. The letter, from Campaign for Pubs Chair Paul Crossman, licensee of three pubs in York and Campaign Director and former MP Greg Mulholland refers to comments made by the BBPA Chief Executive in the Financial Times mentioning that the pub-owning company members of the BBPA were looking to open 80 to 90 percent of their estates but that only 10 per cent of sites were expected to be profitable. With these figures including many larger pubs, the figure for reopening for smaller pubs will be far lower – and many pubs will therefore not be profitable or will remain closed and in both cases, need Government and sector support.

The Campaign for Pubs are calling on the BBPA Chief Executive to announce that all tenants will get genuine rent relief and a meaningful rent review – and that all tenants of the regulated pubcos are also permitted to access the market-rent-only option as laid down in the statutory Pubs Code. This call comes as already tenants are being forced out of their pubs by the unreasonable demands of pubcos and commercial landlords.

The letter criticises the phoney so-called “support packages” being presented by the large pubcos, when in reality the support all tenants want and need is proper rent relief. It also slams the “deliberate and unfair discrimination” by some BBPA members against those tenants who have exercised their legal rights to a free-of-tie (market-rent-only – MRO) option with most such tenants being charged full rent throughout lockdown.

The Campaign for Pubs is calling on the BBPA and the large pubcos to commit to:

  1. Cancel all rent bills imposed during forced closure.
  2. To engage in meaningful rent reviews across their estates to enable them to survive until normal levels of trade can be resumed.
  3. To apply these measures to all tenants, including MRO/commercial tenants.
  4. In the case of the big six Regulated pubcos, market-rent-only Leases should be offered to all of their tenants and leaseholders in place of a rent review to ensure a level playing field throughout pubs in the UK and the original determination of the Pubs Code being ‘no worse off’.

Last week the government published a voluntary Code of Practice for commercial rents, of which the BBPA was a signatory. The Code clearly states that “We all recognise the difficulties that many tenants are facing, particularly those affected by the closures during lockdown.” It goes to make clear that the expectation is for commercial landlords to “enable otherwise viable businesses to continue operating through the period of recovery”, with “…interventions” [which] “are intended to be exceptional, time-limited measures to deal with unprecedented times of acute market shock.” The rent Code of Practice is a universal code of practice and therefore gives absolutely no justification for pub-owning companies to discriminate, as many have, against MRO/commercial tenants in their treatment.

The Campaign for Pubs has recently published Ten Points to Save Pubs #10PointstoSavePubs through the Covid-19 crisis.

  • Point 5 is for a strong mandatory Covid-19 rent code of conduct including a statutory right to a rent review for all pub tenants
  • Point 6 is a rent-free period for all pubs and an extended period of protection from landlords if rent cannot be paid

Commenting, Paul Crossman, Chair of the Campaign for Pubs and licensee of 3 pubs said:

“The Chief Executive of BBPA, the pubcos trade association has pointed out that some pubs won’t be opening on 4th July and that many pubs will not be able to trade profitably. The biggest issue for most pubs is property costs, and for thousands of pubs that means the unreasonable rent demands of the big pubco members of the BBPA are the biggest problem those tenants face.

“Many will be forced to open on 4th July out of sheer desperation for revenue to service mounting rent arrears, even though they gravely fear their business will not be profitable, meaning that business failure could potentially be hastened. On behalf of pubs and publicans, we challenge the pubcos trade association to work with us and to announce that they will offer genuine rent relief and a rent review to all BBPA member company tenants”.

Greg Mulholland, Campaign Director of the Campaign for Pubs said:

“Pub tenants are clear that the support they need is genuine rent relief, which must include a rent-free period for all pub tenants. So-called ‘support packages’ being presented by BBPA large pubco members still involve huge rent bills on closed businesses and still involve the pubcos demanding tenants hand over Government grants. Instead of trying to mislead people and fleece tenants, all pub-owning companies should follow the example of the many excellent family brewers and other landlords who have cancelled commercial rent”.

Dawn Hopkins, Vice Chair of the Campaign for Pubs (a licensee) said:

“It’s disgraceful the way the BBPA members are pretending to MPs and others that they are somehow “supporting” their tenants when in reality pubco reps have spent lockdown phoning tenants asking if they have had their Government grants and asking them to hand them over. The Covid-19 is exposing who the good companies and landlords are, who are not supporting those tenants and those that are charging huge amounts of rent which is seeing pubs and publicans forced out of business. This must stop and we call upon Emma McClarkin to show that the BBPA do care about pubs, by announcing that their members will offer genuine rent relief and meaningful support”.