Thursday, November 09, 2006


Pubs and Pubmen
Private Eye/10-23 November 2006

Stock-exchange listed brewer Greene King certainly knows how to talk the talk when it comes to keeping alive the traditional British pub .

It sponsors the annual Perfect Pub award, currently bring promoted in the Daily Telegraph, and earlier this year it hosted the launch of The Publican trade paper’s Proud of Pubs campaign at the House of Commons, which was attended by scores of thirsty MPs.

Greene King’s chief executive Rooney Anand told the honourable members it was a “great start” in the battle to keep pubs alive and at the centre of local communities. “It’s about time society started standing up for our pubs and recognising them as one of our nation’s greatest Assets”, he said. Greene King marketing director Friona Hope said: “The pub and the pint are great institutions that play a positive role in millions of peoples’ lives.”

All of which has a somewhat hollow ring to thousands of customers of locals up and down Britain who have experienced the way Greene King stands up for local pubs and communities at first hand.

In recent years Greede King, which owns 2,600 pubs and made an operating profit of £191m last year, has bought -- and closed – three local traditional breweries, Morlands, Ridleys and Hardy and Hansons. In September it paid £217m for Hardy and Hanson’s Victorian Kimberley brewery in Nottingham, plus 250 pubs. In October it announced it was closing the brewery and transferring production to Bury St Edmunds by the end of the year with the loss of 80 jobs. GK also announce last month that it was putting 150 pubs across Britain up for sale. Most are likely to be redeveloped as flats or turned into restaurants because GK can make quicker short-term profits that way.

In Lewes, East Sussex, more than 1,000 people, including local MP Norman Baker, have signed a petition against GK’s decision to stop selling Harveys, the award-winning ale that has been brewed by an independent family company in the town for more than 200 years, at the Lewes Arms, the town’s foremost “community” pub.

The 207-year-old pub, a warren of small rooms and wonky stairs, is home to dozens of clubs and societies and all manner of eccentric charitable events, such as the World Pea-Throwing Championships. Its regulars are devoted to their local brew, which outsells all other bees, including Greene King’s, by at least four to one. They fear that the ban on Harveys is but the first step in a process which could see their beloved local, like scores of others owned by Greede King, turned into flats or even a gastropub – and sod the locals.


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