Posts Tagged ‘pubs’

Wetherspoons aren’t happy about the living wage

September 11th, 2015 11 Comments By Mof Gimmers

pint of beer 300x180 Wetherspoons arent happy about the living wageThe boss of the Wetherspoons pubs is not happy about having to pay his staff more money. Tim Martin, the chairman of the budget pubs, has reported that the chain has seen a 25% fall in profits, and this National Living Wage isn’t helping.

Martin says that pubs are under too much unnecessary pressure, thanks in part, to the VAT that pubs are charged, compared to supermarkets.

Of course, the National Living Wage is a hot topic at the moment, with Costa and Next giving everyone the doe-eyes, talking about how much it will hamper their profits. Tim Martin is echoing that, reporting a drop in pretax profits to £58.7m for the year to 26 July.

Now, looking at the numbers, Wetherspoons have seen a rise in bar and food sales, with revenue from their gamblers down. The biggest loss actually came from one-off items, which included an £11.2m write-down on the value of pubs that are under-performing. When you lose all this lot, profits were actually down 2%, thanks in part to higher wages.

That’s not to say that Martin doesn’t have a point about the disparity between the VAT paid by pubs and supermarkets. Pubs are charged 20% VAT on food sales, while supermarkets are charged nothing, which means the shops can subsidise their booze. Supermarkets then, will be better equipped to deal with the National Living Wage better than pubs will, in his eyes.

He said: “By pushing up the cost of wages by a large factor, the government is inevitably putting financial pressure on pubs, many of which have already closed. This financial pressure will be felt most strongly in areas which are less affluent, since the price differential in those areas between pubs and supermarkets is far more important to customers.”

“It is certain that high streets in less affluent areas, which already suffer from serious problems of empty shops and dereliction, will suffer further if pubs and other labour-intensive businesses close.”

Punch Taverns to close 158 pubs

August 24th, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

pint of beer 300x180 Punch Taverns to close 158 pubsWe all know that there’s too many pubs closing, so it is bad news that Punch Taverns are goin to sell 158 ‘non-core’ pubs for £53.5m, to some people called New River Retail.

The pub company plan to sell off its non-core pubs at a rate of about 200 a year, which is pretty dreadful as they’re likely to be less profitable, but vital small village pubs. New River Retail are a company that deal in bargain shops and food outlets, so this sale won’t see more pints pulled, sadly.

Punch boss Duncan Garrood said that this sale is going to allow the company to focus “on our higher quality core pub estate”.

Allan Lockhart, property director at NewRiver Retail, said: “We are delighted to announce the acquisition of the pub portfolio from Punch Taverns, which represents a strategic progression for NewRiver, following our acquisition of a similar portfolio from Marston’s in late 2013, the successful result of which has led us to identify similar opportunities.”

Maybe it is time to set up that speakeasy in the basement, eh?

Heineken and Wetherspoons: it’s WAR

December 10th, 2014 1 Comment By Ian Wade

Heineken 254x300 Heineken and Wetherspoons: its WARThe pub chain JD Wetherspoon has pulled Heineken products from its 926 in the UK after a bit of handbaggery over the supply to one pub in Ireland.

Wetherspoon reckoned Heineken had refused to supply, um, Heineken and Murphy’s Stout to its second Irish pub due to open in Dun Laoghaire.

(Is it an Irish theme pub in Ireland? Amazing).

Heineken was less than impressed that Wetherspoon’s first Irish pub were knocking out Heineken’s wares at 40% less than the competition. Whereas Wetherspoon claim Heineken requested its chief executive John Hutson give them personal guarantees to pay all the bills if the pub chain did not pay them.

So instead of doing away with the two ales in dispute, it’s now withdrawn all of Heineken’s wares such as Strongbow, John Smith’s and Fosters (so no great loss then).

In a statement released today, JD Wetherspoon said it is “no longer trading with a major supplier, Heineken, at any of its 926 pubs in the UK and Republic of Ireland”.

Tim Martin, Wetherspoon chairman, said: “We have been trading with Heineken for 35 years and they have never requested personal guarantees before. It’s obstructive to do so now, especially when we made record profits of around £80 million last year. The refusal to supply Heineken lager and Murphy’s just before the opening of our new pub in Dun Laoghaire, which represents an investment by us of nearly four million Euros,  is unacceptable and hard to understand.”

Heineken are probably meanwhile thinking “Oh yeah Christmas” and has said it was seeking a resolution “as soon as possible”.

In a statement the brewer said: “Heineken UK has had a long standing and successful relationship with JDW in the UK market over a 35-year period, and it is unfortunate that commercial issues in Ireland between Heineken Ireland and JD Wetherspoon have led to the current situation. We are seeking a resolution as soon as possible.”

For the love of Jesus.

Deathwatch: MPs to kill off ‘beer-tie’ for pubs?

November 17th, 2014 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

beer 282x300 Deathwatch: MPs to kill off beer tie for pubs?There’s a lot of rules and regulations around pubs that many see as damaging to our noble boozers. One of them is the ‘beer-tie’, which means that tied leaseholders are legally obliged to buy their beer at whatever price their landlords choose.

The OFT said that ‘beer-ties’ were ‘working well’ for customers, despite the fact a lot of pubs have closed down because of it, which isn’t great for those who like a snifter down their local at all. This ruling has mainly hit pubs in less affluent areas the hardest, where they’ve been priced out of the market by landlords and of course, supermarkets.

Tied-landlords are shutting down pubs and the people that own them are flogging them as little more than property. It is enough to drive you to drink, if you had somewhere to drink that is.

However, MPs are pushing for an amendment to the proposed Pubs Code, where they hope to axe the ‘beer-tie’.

Greg Mulholland, LibDem MP for Leeds North West and chair of Parliament’s Save the Pub Group, is pushing an amendment to the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill which proposes that landlords should be offered a ‘market rent only’ option, which in plain English, means that they’ll have no obligation to buy beer from the group that owns their pub. That means a better variety of booze and, with more competition, better prices on the pumps.

If you’ve ever wondered why, for example, your local hasn’t ever served Doom Bar or Timothy Taylors, even though everyone wants to sup it, chances are, the person who runs your pub isn’t allowed.

Federation of Small Businesses chairman John Allan said: “Pub company tenants aren’t getting a fair deal and this will continue unless they have the option to go free of tie.”

There’s some opposition to this proposal, but these people are clearly not concerned about communities having proper boozers, rather than priced-up gastrononsense.

Will this be the end of the ‘beer-tie’ or are the breweries too powerful to budge?

Pubgoers unbothered by World Cup

July 25th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

pint of beer 300x180 Pubgoers unbothered by World Cup The World Cup left Britain’s pubs a little flat, as it emerged that the tournament had no knock-on effect in driving booze sales.

Mitchells & Butlers, Britain’s largest managed pubs group, had a disappointing World Cup as football fans spent less per head on food and no more on drink during the tournament.

The company, behind the Harvester, Toby Carvery, All Bar One and Country Pubs chains, had flat sales in the 14 weeks to July 19 with food marginally up (0.6%) and drink slightly down (0.5%). That is against overall growth of 1.1% in the first half.

M&B, which added 173 pubs to its roster last month when it paid £266m for the Orchid estate, said overall sales grew 3.8 per cent in the third quarter.

Chief executive Alistair Darby said: “Despite the slowdown in eating and drinking during May and June we remain confident in our well-established strategy.”

Their rivals Marston’s had a similar tale of woe when it came to their 1800 pubs, with sales stabilising, but had strong growth in supermarket and offy sales of its own brews – including Marston’s Pedigree, Hobgoblin and Banks’s, which grew 10% during the World Cup, as customers stocked up in supermarkets to watch the tournament at home.

Barclays analysts have said the slowdown at both pub groups was linked to a slight softening in consumer spending, but they were also faced with tough comparatives from last year.

It’s also clear that people would rather shout at Adrian Chiles from their own sofa, than join a chorus of abuse down at the local.

Pub landlords to be helped by government?

June 3rd, 2014 2 Comments By Mof Gimmers

beer 282x300 Pub landlords to be helped by government?Britain’s pubs are fantastically important to the community, but in recent years, too many of them have found themselves struggling thanks to stupid rents and booze costs.

Well, the government have come up with some new rules in a bid to help pub tenants who are finding it difficult to stay financially afloat.

This new statutory code includes the right to request a rent review after five years and there’s also action being taken after a lot of landlords complained about the ”beer tie”. For the uninitiated, ‘tied pubs’ are those who are forced to buy their supplies (quite often at extortionate prices) from pub companies that own the premises.

Thanks to ‘tied pubs’, over a half of publicans told the government that they earned less than the minimum wage.

“Far too many landlords feel their income is squeezed by big pub companies. So today we are tacking action to make sure they get a fairer deal,” said Business Secretary Vince Cable.

These reforms will see the appointment of an independent adjudicator who will be able to enforce new rules and impose sanctions, financial penalties and such, on pub owners failing to play along with the new rules. Tenant landlords will have the right to review the information that pub companies use to determine increases in rent and tenants of companies that own in advance of 500 pubs will have the right to ask for a “parallel free-of-tie rent assessment”, which will basically show them if they’d be better off going independent.

While there’s little confidence in anything offered by a government, we can only hope that this sees some kind of pub revival.

Co-op: Taking over more pubs

April 8th, 2014 2 Comments By Ian Wade

Co op 292x300 Co op: Taking over more pubsThe Co-op, when not being beleagured by palaver, is planning on turning 54 former Marston’s pubs into stores.

That means, less time spent feeling wonderful while supping on a lovely ale and more time idly staring at tubs of dips and pizzas with chutney on them.

The Co-op opened 291 convenience stores in the past 12 months, and sales in this channel were up 6.1% in volume and 9.1% to March 1. However, thanks to us all liking beer, these c-stores have been a bit controversial when CAMRA got a bit narked at Co-op turning 208 pubs into hummus-fests since 2012.

These leases run for 15 years as well, so if your favourite pub gets closed down, you’ll have to find somewhere else to drink. For the record, it doesn’t seem like Co-op are commandeering park benches, so there’s always that.

New River still has 148 former pubs and claims: “The remaining part of the portfolio will be conventional conversions from public house use to c-stores, or redeveloped as standalone convenience retail stores.”

“New River will undertake all planning, development and contract requirements to deliver the end product to The Co-operative Group. It is expected that the majority of the completed assets will be delivered within two years.”

beer 282x300 New chain of discount pubs with beer for £1 a pop?There are plans to open a chain of discount pubs who will be selling you beer for a pound-a-pop, which of course, has sent drink awareness campaigners into some kind of sober meltdown. The first of these boozers has already opened in Manchester and, thus far, absolutely nothing negative has happened.

The second is about to start doing business in Stockton on Tees, and they would like a special license where they can sell beer from 8am. Why you’d want something that makes you tired and farty that early in the morning is another matter. Maybe they’ll do cheapo fry-ups?

Either way, if these pubs are a success, the chain wants to go nationwide, selling various lagers, bitters, ales and ciders for £1.50-a-pint, or £1 for a half. These prices aren’t that dissimilar to Wetherspoons and a host of local pubs that aren’t part of a chain as such.

Not that booze botherers are having any of it. Colin Shevells, director of Balance, said: “Drink is already too affordable, too available and too heavily promoted. We know that problems are caused by it being too cheap. The PoundPub is just part of a much bigger problem. We need to wake up to the problems cheap alcohol is causing both in the short and long term.”

Mike Wardell, a director behind PoundPub said: “The first PoundPub in Atherton, Greater Manchester has just won an award from CAMRA for the most improved site for our range of cask ales. It is hugely popular and successful, and customer feed back has been fantastic. We are responsible retailers, and this is about giving value for money to working people.”

“No one said anything when Workingmen’s clubs were offering bitter for 99 pence a pint, in fact it was pretty popular. We will offer a quality product at an affordable price. These two sites are the test, and a lot will depend on how successful they are as to how we expand. At a time when 12 pubs a week are closing across the country we have to think outside the box a bit.”

These PoundPubs aren’t just selling cheap ale – they have trad pub games like darts and billiards, but no satellite TV. Basically, they sound amazing – although the beer might be lousy; there’s only one way to find out if that’s the case.

beer 282x300 Cheap Beer Day coming to a pub near you next WednesdayWhat will you be doing this time next week? If you want to save some money, you will be in the pub.

Next Wednesday (25th September) is Cheap Beer Day Tax Parity Day, a protest day staged by members of the VAT Club JB. However, unlike most protests (which at best mean nothing to the ordinary person, but at worst mess up your day in some way), this protest actually saves you money and encourages you to go drinking. Win/win.

The point behind the protest (in case you care) is that the hospitality industry is narked at our current high levels of VAT that definitely apply to pubs, clubs and restaurants, but may not apply to supermarkets selling similar products. This is clearly leading to a decline in the industry and VAT Club members are campaigning for VAT on served drinks and food to be changed to the reduced rate, currently 5%.

The JB of the VAT Club JB and mastermind of the campaign is  Jacques Borel, a veteran VAT campaigner who has already stamped his feet across Europe, earning VAT reductions in Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Finland and France.

Borel, who has a vested interest, owning 1,042 restaurants and 35 hotels across Europe, believes lower prices will lead to a rejuvenation of the hospitality industry, and create jobs- his mission is “to launch 1.5m new jobs in bars and restaurants across Europe” before he retires. He claims the tax reduction from 19.6% to 5% in France led to the creation of 225,000 jobs in the first year.

For one day only, pub chains JD Wetherspoons, Brains, Heineken, Shepherd Neame and Punch Taverns, alongside family brewers Fuller’s and St Austell, will join forces with Pizza Hut and Subway and will reduce their prices by 7.5%, to reflect the Utopia of a reduced rate VAT world.

Clearly, the difference between 20% and 5% is actually 15%, rather than 7.5%, but Borel is a pragmatist- “if Government cut VAT to 5%, some businesses would pass on the entire cut to their customers, others would pass on slightly less. We believe that the average amount prices would fall for consumers will be about 7.5%” He also doesn’t believe in dressing business as altruism “This is going to be an incredible driver of sales…you have to remember that these guys are not heroes; they are businessmen. They know that reducing VAT will bring in more custom.”

And it seems he’s right on the money. “We’re aiming to make it the busiest day of the entire year,” Tim Martin, JD Wetherspoon’s chairman told The Telegraph. “Creating tax parity among pubs, restaurants and supermarkets will create more jobs and raise the amount of tax that Government receives. It’s a win, win situation for Government, voters and our industry.”

While no-one (other than the VAT man) is likely to complain at a reduction in VAT, it remains to be seen how effective the campaign is. Finding full pubs on Tax Parity Day, however, is only going to provide concrete evidence that it is the extra VAT cost keeping people out of pubs. You could say it is your patriotic duty to join in next week.

car crash Wetherspoons to open up a pub... on the motorwayWetherspoons fancy opening a pub on the motorway, which naturally, has caused concern with loads of people because they can see a future where people are doing 70mph while absolutely leathered.

Dr Dan Poulter, doctor and MP, said: “It’s quite an extraordinary story. We know that even minimum alcohol in the bloodstream can affect people’s reaction to drive. So that’s something that I would certainly as a doctor have some concerns over.”

Sir Ian Gilmore, chairman of the Alcohol Health Alliance, said: “Opening a bar at a service station sends out completely the wrong message if we are trying to prevent harm from alcohol-related traffic accidents.”

Carol Whittingham, founder of the Campaign Against Drink Driving, added: “I’m absolutely astounded they have got permission for this. People will be tempted to drink and drive and I can’t understand how the local authority has allowed this.”

The pub chain has defended their decision and said it would not be checking if drinkers were planning to drive. Wetherspoons chairman Tim Martin actually hopes that he’ll be able to open up loads of service station pubs and have been granted permission for a 24-hour bar and restaurant at junction 2 of the M40 at Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire.

Wetherspoons also pointed out that drivers can already buy booze in service stations, adding that they “don’t see any problem.”

Where have all the pubs gone?

May 8th, 2013 15 Comments By Lucy Sweet

bet 241x300 Where have all the pubs gone?

The number of local pubs in the UK has fallen to its lowest point in over a century, say the old gits at the Campaign For Real Ale. In fact only 57,000 locals are left, thanks to annoying wine bars, chain pubs and fancy 5 star gastro joints called things like The Lazy Ox and The Fox’s Anal Fissure.

This sad news, which makes you want to immediately hotfoot it to the Pig and Whistle and stare vacantly into a pint of Speckled Badger, comes as traditional pubs are closing at the rate of 26 a week.

Chief executive of CAMRA Mike Benner blamed the government, saying: “We believe that the scrapping of the beer duty escalator and the extra 1p off beer duty announced in this year’s Budget could mark a turning point for pubs.’

But the government also intend to crack down on dodgy dealings from the big chains and introduce a new watchdog scheme which could save local pub landlords £100 million a year.

Let’s hope the humble pub survives. After all, there are only so many times you can see the words ‘pulled pork’ on a rustic blackboard before you want to go mad and attack someone with a pool cue.

Dyson make Airblade water tap

February 5th, 2013 10 Comments By Mof Gimmers

dyson airblade tap 300x225 Dyson make Airblade water tap

Ever looked at your hands in a Dyson Airblade and notice how it spreads your hand-skin all over the place like a pensioner’s ballbag in summer? Now, we’ll be able to see that without peering into a device with Dyson’s latest development.

The company has unveiled the Airblade Tap, which incorporates a hand-drier into a water tap. Of course, this new gizmo will save time and space, not to mention that it will stop you dripping water all over yourself (so no more worrying that you look like you’ve dribbled wazz on yourself, unless of course, the tap spits air and the dregs of the pipes on you).

Naturally, this new device is technically impressive. It will be able to draw in 30 litres of air per second through its HEPA filter, which translates into you drying and washing your hands in 12 seconds. That means more boozing time. Both air and water are operated via infrared sensor and the filter takes 99.9 percent of bacteria out of the air it draws in.

It will, however, set you back £1,000.


BrewDog to venture overseas

January 29th, 2013 15 Comments By Mof Gimmers

brewdog 300x300 BrewDog to venture overseasBrewDog, Scotland’s largest indie brewery, have announced that they’re going to start opening bars abroad (Deathwatch countdown starts now) on the strength of the fact that they are already exporting their beer to 32 countries and has opened 10 bars around the UK.

The company are looking at their strongest markets outside of the UK, which means pubs in Sweden, Brazil and Japan.

The firm’s finance director, Neil Simpson, said: “I think the main growth is customers looking for a bit more choice – they’re looking for a better flavour and they’re fed up with drinking the same products all the time.”

“So while it is perhaps seen as risky to invest abroad, the opportunities for us are there to grow.”

There is a craft beer boom worldwide at the moment, but does this seem like a stretch too far for a company famous for stuffing their beer inside dead animals?

O2 to bring free Wi-fi to 1,600 UK pubs

March 12th, 2012 7 Comments By Andy Dawson
automan2 205x300 O2 to bring free Wi fi to 1,600 UK pubs

Free Wi-fi, yesterday

Pubs, restaurants and other public places that offer ‘free Wi-fi’ are all well and good, but more often than not we’re forced to endure different infuriating sign-ups and login nonsense for every single place that offers us free online access. In short, it’s often more trouble than it’s worth.

O2 might be about to do something about that, and have signed a deal to provide Wi-fi in 1,600 Mitchell & Butlers pubs and restaurants by the end of 2012, including chains such as Harvester, Toby Carvery, Vintage Inns, Browns, All Bar One and O’Neill’s, claiming that their service will be: “fast, genuinely free to customers, reliable and simple-to-use”.

Another good reason to while away a few hours in the great British faceless pub chain outlet then. How much does free Wi-fi matter to you when it comes to your choice of pub?

Power video games with the strength of your urine!

November 28th, 2011 9 Comments By Mof Gimmers

urinal games 300x231 Power video games with the strength of your urine! Like quiz machines? Like pissing? Well, you’ll love the fact that hands-free urinal video games have reached the UK. Well, South London, but y’know, it counts.

Basically, you can play video games with the power of your slash.

Thanks to the way existing male/female genitals work, this is a male-toilets-only thing and the fellas who enter the Exhibit bar in Balham will be able to play one of three games.

One is called ‘Clever Dick’ which is a quiz game, and the controls for all three will test the accuracy of your aim as your move your stream to the left and right.

Of course, this is useless for old men with dribbling streams and no good for those of you who like helping your mates out when they’re playing quiz machines. You wouldn’t want to be the bloke stood behind someone with your lad in your hand, waiting to jump in on the Spandau Ballet questions, do you?

Captive Media, who make these games, say that you’ll be able to post scores on an online leader board and basically show yourself off as a person who can urinate for aaaages.

“It’s taken three years of research and development to get to this point,” says Captive Media director Mark Melford. “The reaction to the units so far has been incredible – it’s just so much fun.”

“We already had a huge amount of interest in the units from bars, pubs, exhibition centres and retail outlets across the country and overseas – even though we’ve been trying to keep a lid on it,” says Captive Media cofounder Gordon MacSween. “It’s a tough time for bars and pubs currently. This product offers customers something fun, and unlike anything they’ve seen before. Those are two good reasons to go out for a drink at a time when so many are opting to stay in.”