Saturday, November 18, 2006
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
LEWES ARMS: LETTER TO ROONEY ANAND
Dear Mr Anand:
With just a few days to go before the unthinkable, this is a personal plea as you have the power to overturn some rough justice just as the Home Secretaries of old could reprieve the death sentence. Apologies for making this sound theatrical but there is much emotion going round.
I visited the Lewes Arms last Saturday evening and in 150 minutes one pint of GK IPA was sold and all the other real ale was Harvey's Best. All the talk was of the withdrawal of Harvey's "in 9 days time".
All my business training tells me that it is so much cheaper to retain existing business than attract new. To risk losing this amount of trade and goodwill (for a corporate "feelgood" of pushing your own products at any cost) will, I sincerely trust, lead you to do some serious soul and heart-searching.
If you had withdrawn the Harvey's when you originally took over the Beard's chain I think people might have smarted but accepted it but to do so after long ownership does smack of something unpalatable.
Goodwill is priceless and you risk it over nothing really except, I suspect, a corporate fetish - you are currently selling huge volumes and banking the profits and both consumer and retailer are at peace. Let it be.
There is still time so please use it to reprieve into perpetuity (or as far into perpetuity as anyone can!) Harvey's Best Bitter sales at the Lewes Arms.
I can't promise but if you do as I have suggested and then visit the pub you'll experience the sort of welcome that a little bit of corporate pride can graciously earn. I should certainly to privileged to be present when you visit.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
LEWES ARMS ON YOUTUBE
When Guardian photographer Roger Bamber came down to do a photoshoot for the paper (see previous posting) local lensman Mick Hawksworth was on hand to video the scene. See the results on Youtube
Campaign for Real Freedom
Local beer writer Ronald Atkins wrote a series of articles entitled ‘Campaign for Real Freedom’ for the journal ‘The Independent Imbiber.’ The following is an edited version of the piece that appeared in the October/November 2002 issue.It provides a valuable historical background to the current dispute.
Earlier articles under this heading, published in 1998, were inspired by the epidemic of pubs being swallowed by large chains and having their choice of beers cut back as a result. The second article described how the epidemic had affected me personally, with the sale of the local Beard's chain to major
In my part of
However, the article foresaw long-term dangers. The logic of Greene King spending over £14m. (a figure of £17m. has since been suggested) on around forty pubs that were not at the time selling substantial quantities of their beers pointed to freedom of choice being eventually curtailed. We are now seeing a policy on precisely these lines being put into practice.
From the start, the range of non-Greene King beers was restricted to those authorised by
To give a brief historical perspective, Harvey and Beard were the two surviving breweries of Lewes, each with a small tied estate. When times became hard for regional breweries in the Sixties, it was agreed Beard would stop brewing and allow
During that period, Greene King claim there has been a large swing from
Greene King's new policy came to the general public's attention towards the end of August, thanks to one of the regulars at the Kings Head in Chailey, who got press coverage when more than 130 people signed his petition protesting at the imminent removal of
"We bought the pubs....and went round and told each and every tenant that we would be withdrawing
[But in] the next issue of the Sussex Express, the front-page headline celebrated the survival of
A different spokesperson from Greene King now claimed 'We have no plans to withdraw
One suspects the decision taken over Lewes stems from the competitive element. Apart from it being
Breweries, including Greene King, that allow even a limited and authorised range of guests do not force them on their publicans; they are meeting a demand - small, perhaps, but sufficiently important - for something different. Many licensees would love to be given the chance of stepping slightly outside the tie; they invariably have customers that, for whatever reason, refuse to drink the house beers, and a guest ale might be the way to keep them coming back.
An insight into problems faced, not just by landlords but also by quite substantial breweries, can be gleaned from reading between the lines of the Greene King-Harvey affair. "We are withdrawing Harvey's because it is a rival", was the original excuse. Fair enough, except that many Greene King pubs in this area continue to sell non-Greene King beers.
Coincidentally, there has been a spate of rumours, some quoting large sums of money, about Greene King allowing landlords to retain Harvey's provided they accept a rent increase. This gives extra meaning to the remark quoted earlier that "discussions are continuing".
Add it all up, and you get a tale of a pub company concerned about maximising their profit margin on sales of a particular product.
The Death of the English Pub
For you will have lost the last of England.'
- Hilaire Belloc
Paul Kingsnorth is one of the best of the journalists we have in Britain. He has written two extremely important articles on the English pub which set our struggle at the Lewes Arms in a broader context. We urge you to read them.
The traditional English pub is being eaten alive by corporate consolidation
Then there are the pubs which the breweries serve. Twenty of them close every month - converted into housing, theme bars or luxury flats. Half of those that remain are in the hands of ambitious and rapidly-expanding pub corporations which have set about remaking them with the help of loans from Japanese banks and marketing techniques developed in pizza and sandwich chains.
Rural pubs are disappearing with unprecedented speed, leaving many villages 'dry' - bereft not just of a place to drink but of the community focus that went with it. In towns and cities, giant high street drinking sheds - known in the trade as 'high volume vertical drinking establishments' - open in their place, selling alcopops to teenagers and fuelling the 'binge drinking' phenomenon. The last ten years have witnessed an explosion of identikit chains - O'Neill's, All Bar One, the Slug and Lettuce, Wetherspoons - in what critics call a whirlwind 'McDonaldisation' of the traditional pub.
Read the full article here
Do You Remember an
A smoking ban could be another nail in the coffin of the English pub
Farewell, then, to the smoky old pub. As a ban on smoking in most pubs looksset to become law, it seems that the hazy, convivial, unpredictable atmosphere of the traditional local is on the way out. The edgy, boozy, glamorously grimy institutions that inspired Samuel Johnson, G K Chesterton, George Orwell and Patrick Hamilton are to be legislated into history, in the name of public health. In their place, we can no doubt look forward to an uninspiring, government- approved selection of depressingly hip wine bars, all steel and smokeless dining spaces, in which "consumers" (not "customers", and certainly never "locals") partake of their sensible daily allocation of alcohol units from glasses marked with health warnings, and none of the bar staff risks the certain death that would come about by straying within ten metres of a smoker.Read the full article here
ARGUS RETRACTION AND COMMENT
Following our complaint to The Argus regarding their erroneous story (see previous posting), they published the following on their website. Unfortunately, the majority of their readers will not see this.
Greene King denies beer ban U-turn
A brewery planning to ban local brew
The regulars, who have been campaigning to keep
Mayor of Lewes Merlin Milner pointed out that 80 per cent of cask beer sold at the Lewes Arms is Harveys Best, and regulars fear the pub will lose a lot of its trade if the beer is withdrawn.
The Lewes Arms has been selling locally produced beer for more than 200 years. The campaign to save
Some people carried protest banners at the Lewes Bonfire on Saturday.
I believe that it is their policy to sell 'guest beers' from breweries that they already own - although I can't be certain of this. Are there any Greene King houses selling guest beers from breweries that they don't own?- I think that this is a crucial question.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
PRESS REACTIONS: Viva Lewes
The story has since, in journalistic parlance, got legs. It caught the attention of the Sussex Express and the Argus, then the Financial Times and the Mail on Sunday financial section. Then onto the main section of the Guardian and Radio 4’s Today programme. “Reuters have sent out the story on the wire as well,” says John, one of a number of national-level journalists who is involved in the campaign. “So far we have spotted the story in the Jamaica Gleaner, The Toronto Star, and a couple of African papers.” I drink my Harvey’s Best, CAMRA’s current Champion Best Bitter of Britain, as we conduct the interview. John has an orange juice and lemonade, a reflection of the fact the doors of the pub have just opened. Is this not, ventures the devil’s advocate in me, just a local storm in a provincial beer glass? “Not at all,” says John.
“It is a larger story in microcosm, and it involves some important issues that are of national importance. There is a lot of concern about the loss of local pubs due to the aggressive activities of what we call the PubCos.
Local beers and local breweries are under increasingly under pressure from companies like Greene King. Since we have started the campaign we have discovered a number of similar movements all over the country which are trying to stop local pubs from closing and local beers from being taken out of the ones that remain.” So why, I wonder, a journalist in a town full of them, has this particular case caught the attention of the press? “In press terms it’s a classic David and Goliath story,” continues John, “and Lewes is always in their sights around Bonfire Night. From Greene King’s point of view it was the wrong pub in the wrong town at the wrong time.”
Recently the Evening Argus, having misheard the comments of Greene King’s Mark Angela on the Today Programme, announced that the company had decided a policy u-turn and were to keep Harveys on. “I have had to correct them on that,” says John. “Although we have made some progress in that Greene King have agreed to considering occasionally keeping Harveys as a guest ale. Also Norman Baker MP has requested a meeting with the Greene King Chief Executive Rooney Anand at his earliest convenience on the matter, and is delivering our petition with over 1,200 signatures. But there is still a lot of work to be done.” Publicity, however, can work both ways. “The eyes of the brewery industry are all on this situation,” says John. “If Greene King back down, it may well set a precedent.” As I finish my pint and we wind up the conversation, the pub phone rings. “It’s the Publican,” says the barman, to the landlady. The Publican is the trade magazine of the brewing industry. “I can’t comment,” she says. “You’ll have to go through the Greene King press office.” This one, you feel, will run and run. And so it should.
See the whole issue of Viva Lewes
PRESS REACTIONS: Private Eye
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
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
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
PRESS REACTIONS: The Morning Advertiser
Drinkers from a Sussex pub turned up the heat on Greene King this weekend in a row over their favourite ale. As previously reported, drinkers at the Lewes Arms in Lewes are up in arms over Greene King's plans to remove Harvey's bitter from a pub they have recently bought.
However, Greene King managing director Mark Angela defended the plans to the East Anglian Daily Times. He said: "I don't think there is anything wrong with wanting to sell our products in our pubs. Harveys is widely available in other pubs in Lewes, it's a nice pint. We also have a healthy guest beer selection and we have lots of reciprocal arrangements with other brewers.
PRESS REACTIONS: THE ARGUS
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
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
[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]
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
"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
Sunday, November 05, 2006
PRESS REACTIONS: The Guardian
Bonfire night protest turns heat on brewery
· 60,000 expected to join traditional procession
· Campaigners fight back over ban on local beer
More than 400 years after Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the monarch and his parliament, bonfire enthusiasts in a
The pub and brewing chain, Greene King, has enraged the people of Lewes by trying to ban the sale of the locally brewed
Yesterday, they gathered outside the 207-year-old pub in bonfire night costumes to mock a theatrical Greedy King, who swaggered down the street with a vast gut and an unpleasant leak from a Greene King beer pump strapped to his lower belly.
Lewes has a bonfire-night history of parading effigies of its enemies through the streets before blowing them to bits with fireworks. Recently, they constructed a gigantic Gordon Brown caning a naked Peter Mandelson across the buttocks and an Osama bin Laden straining on a toilet.
Greene King, whose chief executive, or his effigy at least, was blown apart three years ago when the company first threatened to stop selling the local
Greene King has already incurred the wrath of Camra, the campaign for real ale, by buying up and closing three traditional breweries - Morlands, Ridleys and Hardys and Hansons - in a campaign which has left it controlling more than 2,600 pubs around the country. The company last year reported operating profits of £191m, a 21% increase on the previous year.
The company bought the Lewes Arms in a package in 1998 and, until now, has sold its own beers alongside
They add that Greene King's desire to increase the sale of its own products by banning a more popular rival is part of a national trend by big pub companies to transform community pubs into restaurants or even sell them off for housing to maximise profits. Camra says pubs are closing at the rate of 26 a month, a rate which is likely to increase when the ban on smoking in pubs comes into force next year. Greene King yesterday said it would be happy to sell
At the Lewes Arms yesterday, the locals pledged to carry on plotting. They describe their pub as a "communal living room" which also hosts the world pea-throwing championship.
More than 1,000 people have signed a protest petition, including the mayor, Merlin Milner, and the local Liberal Democrat MP, Norman Baker.
PRESS REACTIONS: East Anglian Daily Times
Brewer feels the heat in pub row
East Anglian Daily Times/
BOSSES at Suffolk-based Greene King could have their effigies torched as part of Bonfire Night celebrations on the south coast.
But regulars at the popular Lewes Arms, which is home to the World Pea Throwing Championship, are now rattling their matches for the top brass at Greene King amid a heated row over the ales on offer.
And even if effigies are not set alight, pub regulars claim a number of anti-Greene King costumes will be worn on Bonfire Night.
In October, fans of the 220-year-old drinking hole were told a leading bitter brewed by Greene King rival
Despite the threat of a boycott, Greene King stood firm, stating it took customer choice seriously but, alongside guest beers, it wanted its own tipples stocked.
In response a campaign - called “Hands off our
Greene King managing director Mark Angela yesterday defended the firm's move. He said: “I don't think there is anything wrong with wanting to sell our products in our pubs.
“One of the positive things to have come out of this is that we have all got the chance to talk about cask ales. Our whole business is founded on making sure we have a dialogue with the community. We knew this would be sensitive so we wanted to give people notice of what we are intending to do. If it doesn't work, we will review it.”
Petition organiser John May, of Friends of the Lewes Arms, said there was considerable strength of feeling because 80% of the pub's regulars drink
Mr May said: “I am hoping sense will prevail. Both
“This pub is a community pub and that is one of the major reasons we are fighting so hard - it's about the survival of a community.”
Mr May has called on Greene King and Harveys to stock each others' beers in their pubs, claiming such a move would prevent loyal Lewes Arms customers from abandoning the historic watering hole.
This idea is something Mr Angela said he was happy to discuss with
Friday, November 03, 2006
GREENE KING ON BBC RADIO 4's TODAY
TODAY: Are you still going to persist with this course of action ?
Mark Angela: First of all, just to make the point, you're talking to a cask ale drinker and I'm passionate about it as obviously the people in Lewes are. I applaud the passion because that's what it's all about. But at the end of the day Greene King actually invest more in cask ale than any other brewer. We've actually got 20 of our own cask ale products in our range and we would like to be selling frankly more of our own beer in our own pubs and offering a choice at the same time.
TODAY: What about this accusation of corporate homogenisation. Can't you make an exception, isn't this a special case ?
MA: Well in fact we do have quite a wide range of guest beers in quite a number of our pubs across the country and in terms of ... listening to our customers we wouldn't be in this business and have a pretty decent track record of success unless we did that.
TODAY: So why not make Harveys a guest beer in the Lewes Arms then?
MA:Well its interesting because I don't think anybody's ruled that out. There's been a lot of noise about the fact that we are withdrawing Harveys but as I said we do have quite a range of guest beers in pubs and its interesting that (pause) we'd be more than willing to consider it.
TODAY: So you'd reconsider it. If, for instance,Harveys would consider your beer as a guest beer in their pubs you could reconsider this decision.
MA:As I said we'd like to sell more of our beer in our pubs as Harveys do themselves. In fact Harveys actually don't sell any of our beers in their pubs. So the door's always open. We're taking the decision because we believe its right for the business but, as I said, we have a range of guest ales as part of the programme, so we wouldn't ever rule it out in the future.
TODAY: Maybe there's a solution there, who knows
MA: There may just be.
You can listen to the whole programme again here
The interview aired at approx 8:40
Thursday, November 02, 2006
SUSSEX WON'T BE DRUV
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
PRESS REACTIONS: BBC WEBSITE
Lewes Arms regular are campaigning against the Suffolk-based brewery, which wants to withdraw locally-brewed Harveys Best Bitter from the pub.
They have been backed by the mayor of the town and local MP Norman Baker.
Lewes' famous bonfire societies are now set to lend their support and give Greene King a roasting on 4 November.
Chamber pots and broom sticks
Such a gesture would be in keeping with the traditions of the quirky 220-year-old pub, which has built up a reputation for hosting activities including the Annual World Pea-Throwing Championship and Dwyle Flunking, a traditional game involving two teams, a broom stick, a chamber pot and a beer-soaked rag.
Their ire was first raised at the beginning of October when the pub informed them that Harveys would be withdrawn by the end of the year.
"It was only a month ago, but the campaign got going very quickly," said Jack Wilkinson, a regular at the Lewes Arms.
A pressure group, the Friends of the Lewes Arms, has written to Greene King and Harveys trying to arrange some form of compromise agreement that might see its favourite real ale kept on tap.
Previously, Greene King has held firm, saying it wants "to serve our own award-winning quality ales in our own pubs".
However, the drinks distributor supplying the Lewes Arms said it hadn't received any instructions to stop delivering Harveys Best Bitter and Greene King has now said it is preparing a new statement on the issue.
Published: 2006/11/01 16:37:49 GMT
LEWES ARMS STORY GOES GLOBAL !!!
November 1st 2006
By Paul Majendie
LONDON (Reuters) - Devoted drinkers at a quirky pub have locked horns with a national brewery in a classic consumer battle over their favourite tipple.
Regulars at the Lewes Arms are fans of locally brewed Harveys Best Bitter beer, but pub owner and brewer Greene King, which bought the Lewes Arms in 1998, wants to call time on the regulars' beloved pint.
Passions are running high in the 220-year-old pub in the town of Lewes, once home to radical propagandist Thomas Paine who wrote "The Rights of Man."
A "Save our Harveys" petition has garnered almost 1,000 signatures in the offbeat pub, whose annual attractions range from hosting the world pea-throwing championships to spaniel racing.
The mayor of the town and the local member of parliament have stepped into the fray to back the pub regulars who also won the support of CAMRA -- The Campaign for Real Ale.
"Although Greene King is a good brewer, we think they should allow local choice," CAMRA spokesman Iain Loe told Reuters.
"Harveys has a strong local following and is a prominent feature of the town. It seems to be ridiculous that they (Lewes Arms regulars) are in sight of the brewery but will be unable to drink its beers".
"It is ridiculous the amount of miles across country its beer has to travel to the consumer. Beer miles are as important as food miles," he added.
The pub campaigners argue there are wider issues at stake, such as the degree of redress consumers should have against corporate decisions.
"It is important to make a stand on this issue," said pub campaigner John May. "We have a petition signed by almost 1,000 people. Harveys is drunk by 80 percent of the people who go into the pub. Everyone will leave if it is taken out.
"This has united the whole town. We are encouraged by the huge level of public support," May said.
But Greene King, the 207-year-old producer of Abbot Ale and Old Speckled Hen beers that is based in Suffolk is adamant.
"We do listen to our customers and are continually adapting our businesses according to their tastes and requirements," the company said.
"Of course it is true that you can't please all of the people all of the time, but by making decisions that are right for the business and for the majority of customers in the long term, we usually get the balance right," it added.
But local MP Norman Baker told a local radio station: "It is a totemic thing ... are we going to have the beer we want in a central pub in Lewes, or is the local brewery going to be pushed out by someone who's coming in from a very long way away?"