Saturday, October 28, 2006

PRESS REACTIONS: The Argus/Sussex Express

Battle over brew turns into revolt
by Andy Chiles
The Argus/27.10.06

A pub's regulars have been told they will have to go elsewhere if they want locally-brewed ale.

Suffolk-based brewery Greene King has told drinkers at the Lewes Arms, in Mount Place, Lewes, it will not be going back on its plans to stop selling Harvyes Best Bitter, despite threats of a boycott.

Greene King operations director Kris Gumbrell said: 'We are committed to this decision and we're going forward with it."

Regulars were up in arms when they found out Harveys would cease to be sold after Christmas. It's the pub's best-selling ale but Greene King, which runs the pub, wants to get rid of it because it is made by Lewes-based rival brewer Harveys.

Fifty drinkers gathered at the Lewes Arms earlier this month to consider how to fight the decision. They warned Greene King they would be willing to take their custom to another pub, where Harveys continues to be sold. Lewes MP Norman Baker and the town's council have both backed the campaign.

Mr Gumbrell said he was confident the pub would continue to be well used. He said: "It would be sad if we lost any of our customers. If they are not happy with the range we have available within the Lewes Arms they will go somewhere else. Only some of the customers want Harveys, not everybody."

He said it was unfortunate there would be more "beer miles" involved in transporting kegs to the pub from its Kent depot. Lewes Arms customers said they were disappointed. John May, a regular who has led the campaign, said he was still hopeful Greene King would change its mind. He has received a letter from the firm's managing director telling him it would continue to investigate the situation.

But another regular Andy Scott said: "I don't know what we'll do if they take Harveys away. I really like the atmosphere here but I would give serious thought to going elsewhere. We feel very strongly about it. Harveys is our local brewery and we want to support it. There is a strong possibility all the regulars could move to another pub together.

The Campaign for Real Ale has been fighting to support Britain's small breweries and said it was disappointed the actions of Greene King seemed to be counter-productive to its efforts.'

Peter Coppard, president of the Brighton and South Downs branch said: "There are a lot of people becoming increasingly unhappy with Greene King. We have always supported them but it is this kind of action which has created bad feeling against them."

Controversial beer is pulled
by John Eccles
Sussex Express/27.10.06

Brewer Greene King has decided to withdraw its new beer from the pumps at the Lewes Arms after less than a month in operation. The ale, called Lewes Arms, was introduced to take over from local brew Harveys.

Kris Gumbrell, Greene King operations director, said: "We will be removing the Lewes Arms Bitter following some feedback from customers and the local community."

Some 600 coustomers have signed a petition, calling for the pub to keep its Harveys. And the plot has again thickened.

Last week Mr Gumbrell said: "We stand by our original decision to remove Harveys ale from the Lewes Arms. This is a commercial decision which we have not taken lightly but understandfably, as a leading brewer, we want to showcase our own beers."

But this was followed by a personal letter from GK chief executive Rooney Anand stating that managing director Mark Angela would look further into the matter.

Lewes Arms customer John May said: "I shouldn't imagine they sold very much of their new beer. It's pleasing that Mr Angela is willing to investigate the situation."

Mr May has also written to the Suffolk brewer's asking for a 'gentlemen's compromise'. he said: 'Greene King should recognise the importance of the Lewes Arms to the town as genuine community pub.

'It should recognise that Harvey's Bitter is the preferred brew of the vast majority of the patrons and that removing it would severely damage the numerous community activities that the pub shelters, as the existing clientele would be dispersed as a result."

"Therefore it should be willing, in this specific instance, to continue to serve Harvey's Bitter as a genuine gesture to the community.'

Added Mr May: 'It might then be that Harveys would feel able to stock some Greene King products as a reciprocal gesture. Some form of amicable agreement between the gentlemen of the trade would reflect well on both companies and would save an outsnaing community pub.'

Bill Inman, Harveys marketing director said: 'Its a novel suggestion. We will certainly look at it but I can't comment on the outcome.'


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