Pubs will be ‘fraught with difficulties’

PUBLICANS could be landed with excessive charges if a new law aiming to free up the beer market is passed, according to landlords in Worthing and Shoreham.

Pubs which are owned by large companies – known as ‘tied pubs’ – pay higher prices for beers than independent pubs because they have to buy from their owning company.

But they could be freed from this obligation after MPs voted 284 to 259 in favour of a law change to remove this rule.

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Nigel Watson, owner of the independent micropub called Anchored in Worthing, said tied tenants could find that if the change is made, the owning companies will increase other charges – such as rent and maintenance – in order to make up money lost from beer sales.

“The big pub companies are massive organisations which are only interested in their shareholders rather than the landlords,” he said.

“They will tailer costs to their needs to extrapolate as much money as possible out of the poor landlord.”

The change was passed by the Commons last Tuesday following years of lobbying by voluntary consumer organisation The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) and publicans.

The amendment to the bill still has to be voted through the House of Lords before it becomes law.

If it made law, tied tenants will be able to choose a rent- only agreement and buy beer on the open market.

Graham Eaves, who helps run his son’s pub, Piston Broke, in Shoreham High Street, said he used to own a tied pub and he was glad he didn’t anymore.

He said: “I see it as being fraught with difficulties.

“The pub companies need to earn their income and if they don’t earn it from beer ties they will earn it from rent. I don’t see that they’ve got any other choice.”

Nigel said the people who will benefit will be the local pub-goers who will be able to enjoy a wider range of beers at the pub and breweries which will be able to sell to many more pubs.

CAMRA has said tied pubs currently pay up to 77 per cent more for some beer.

The government’s own research shows that half of the “tied pub” licensees in the UK earn less than £15,000 a year due to the high beer costs.

Campaigners backing the change have said this will allow pubs to charge their customers less.