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Campaign for Pubs calls on Government to take action to stop the pub rent-rip-off

The Campaign for Pubs, the grassroots campaign for pubs, publicans and all pub lovers, has called on the Government to take action to stop the pub rent-rip-off if they are serious about saving pubs rather propping up huge corporations and property companies.

The Campaign for Pubs has welcomed the fact that pubs have been allowed to open again, with strict social distancing measures in place, however trade is restricted and for nearly all pubs, considerably reduced and many pubs are still not able to open viably. In addition, surveys show that many customers are not yet returning to the pub. Yet some pub-owners, some of whom have been charging full rent throughout lockdown, are charging rent based on normal trading conditions and figures, which threatens the survival of thousands of pubs.

The Campaign for Pubs have written to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, Rt. Hon. Alok Sharma MP urging the Government to take action to tackle the pub rent-rip-off, because the large pub-owning companies are failing to abide by the voluntary Covid Rent Code of Practice and are charging rents that bear no relation to current restricted trading conditions.

It is already clear from figures supplied by licensees up and down the country, including Campaign for Pubs members, that trade is restricted and reduced and that this will be the case for months to come. Campaign for Pubs licensee members are reporting that trade for those that could open over the weekend was down by anything between 30% and 60% from the same time last year.  Pub tenants and lessees are also reporting that unrealistic rents, are the biggest threat to the continued existence of their pub businesses and that rent needs to be correspondingly reduced across the board.

The Campaign for Pubs have welcomed the Secretary of State’s comments that “Our pubs, restaurants and cafes are the lifeblood of high streets and town centres across the country and we are doing all we can to ensure they can bounce back as quickly and safely as possible”. However in order for those words to be put into action publicans now urgently require action to stop the charging of unreasonable and unsustainable rents – and need the Government to step in and help all pub tenants by giving them all the right to a rent review.

The Campaign for Pubs are calling for the Government to do the five key things:

  1. Bring in a meaningful mandatory Covid-19 rent code of conduct including a statutory right to a rent review for all pub tenants.
  2. Call on all pub-owners who rent and lease pubs to offer a rent-free period for all pubs and an extended period of protection from landlords if rent cannot be paid.
  3. Abolish all “upward-only” rent review clauses in all pub leases so that it is possible to reduce rents in future rent reviews if trading conditions continue to make current rents unsustainable.
  4. To apply these measures to all tenants, including MRO/commercial tenants.
  5. In the case of the big six Regulated pubcos covered by the Pubs Code, the right to a market-rent-only (MRO) lease should be available 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’.

The Campaign for Pubs, representing pubs, publicans and pub campaigners, have also warned the Secretary of State to note that to the big pubcos trade association, the BBPA, are refusing to accept the role that their members have in shouldering their fair share of the burden and instead hoping that the public purse will provide the means for their members and other pub-owning bodies to carry on charging unsustainable and unreasonable rents. This would not help pubs or publicans at all, the taxpayer’s money would merely prop up the pubcos and go to shareholders and creditors. One of the six regulated pubcos is owned by a Hong Kong property company, another is owned by a company based in the Cayman Islands and a third is owned by a Mayfair based private equity company. The Campaign for Pubs believes the Government must save pubs, not pubcos.

The Campaign for Pubs have also called for ongoing support, in the form of further furlough support for pubs that cannot open and a VAT cut for hospitality, but  are urging the Government to force the large pubcos to do their bit, rather than seeking taxpayers money to continue to charge unreasonable rents, that do not reflect current trading levels.

The Campaign for Pubs exists to provide a real voice for pubs, bringing together publicans, customers and brewers and allow who love pubs and value our pub culture. The Campaign for Pubs campaigns for a better, freer and fairer, more sustainable pub sector as laid out in the mission statement. The Campaign for Pubs costs £25 a year to join, or £40 for a couple and members become part of a national network of those who care about pubs and their future.

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

“It’s positive that some pubs are able to open, but is clear from publicans that pubs will not be at normal trading levels for some time and rents must reflect this but do not. It’s a disgrace that many pub-owning companies are ignoring this and seeking unreasonable levels of rent. Unless tackled by the Government, this will cause many pub businesses to fail. It’s disappointing but not surprising that the pubcos trade association are refusing to tackle this and are hoping that their big pubco members can continue to charge sky-high rents. So it’s crunch time for the Government, are they going to support local pubs or the faceless corporations who own our local pubs? It’s time to stop the pub rent-rip-off and to save pubs, not prop up pubcos”.

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

“We welcome the fact that some pubs have been able to open but it is clear from licensees up and down the country that, inevitably, with restrictions in place, that trade is down compared to normal conditions, yet rents don’t reflect this. The Campaign for Pubs has called for ongoing support from the Government with pubs facing reduced trade and with some pubs still unable to open, but pubcos and property owners must also be made to play their part and cut rents. Otherwise the pubcos and some commercial landlords will continue to charge excessive rents and many publicans will be unable to make ends meet, so the Government must act and stop the pub rent-rip-off”.

Dawn Hopkins, Vice-Chair of the Campaign for Pubs and licensee of the Rose, Norwich said:

“All pubs need ongoing support, if we are to avoid thousands of pub closures, but this support must come from Government and the sector. It’s time that the large pubcos and other property owners stopped charging rip-off rents that are pushing publicans out of business. For them to be calling for Government support, without playing their part, is disgraceful and it’s time the Government woke up to the reality of the pubco model. It’s time for the Government to decide whether it wants to save pubs or pubcos and if they want to save pubs, they need to stop the pub rent-rip-off”.

ENDS

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