Wednesday, November 08, 2006


This story appeared in The Argus on Monday 6th November. It is substantially incorrect. Here is the article with corrections in brackets.

Protest brings U-turn in a bitter row at pub

By Andy Tate

A brewery which triggered outrage by announcing plans to banish Harveys Best Bitter from a Sussex pub has backed down in the face of public pressure.

Suffolk brewery Greene King had vowed to stop selling its rival's popular ale at the Lewes Arms after Christmas.

But on Friday, following the presentation of nearly 1,000 protest signatures, a threat by regulars to boycott the pub in Mount Place, Lewes, and coverage in The Argus, the brewery did a U-turn.

[We have not delivered the petition as yet, which now has 1200+ signatures and rising. We have not made any threats to boycott the pub. The brewery has not done a U-turn.]

Mark Angela, managing director of the Greene King Pub Company, indicated on national radio that Harveys would, after all, continue to be available at the pub.

[This is incorrect. As reported below, he did raise the possibility of Harveys being a 'guest beer' - certainly a concession from their previous position. They have subsequently confirmed that possibility in The Guardian interview - see previous post - but also said this would only be a temporary or occasional situation]

Asked by an interviewer on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme whether Harveys could be made a guest beer at the Lewes Arms, Mr Angela said: "I don't think anybody has ruled that out."

He added: "There's been a lot of noise about the fact we are withdrawing Harveys but we do have quite a range of guest beers in pubs and we would be more than willing to consider Harveys.

"We would like to be selling more of our own beer in our pubs and offering choice at the same time."

The climb-down came as Lewes bonfire societies burnt an effigy of a "Green King"
on Saturday as part of the town's annual parade.

[No effigy of Greene King was burnt during the bonfire celebrations]

Mr Angela applauded the "passion" with which Lewes drinkers had put their case and insisted Greene King listened to its customers.

If it did not, he said, "we wouldn't be in this business and we have a pretty decent track record of success."

Lewes mayor Merlin Milner had earlier told the BBC Greene King's behaviour had been "a good example of corporate homogenisation".

He pointed out that 80 per cent of cask beer sold at the Lewes Arms was Harveys Best.

He said: "The pub has been selling locally produced beer for more than 200 years. It's the best selling beer in the pub.

"Greene King are not really listening to customers. They are telling us what we want rather than us telling them what we want."

The campaign to keep Harveys at the Lewes Arms, bought by Greene King in 1998, has been backed by Lewes MP Norman Baker and the Campaign For Real Ale.


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