Saturday, November 18, 2006


Norman Baker is currently in negotiating over the future of Harveys in the Lewes Arms, with Greene King and other parties. We have been informed that Harveys will stay on tap for at least a week while talks continue. We await developments with interest. Press interest in the story remains high

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


This great letter to Greene King's Chief Executive Rooney Anand was written by Roger Corbett who lives in South London. Good on you Roger!!

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If you had withdrawn the Harvey's when you originally took over the Beard's chain I think people might have smarted but accepted it but to do so after long ownership does smack of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.

Yours sincerely

Rober Corbett

Saturday, November 11, 2006


We have just learnt that the Lewes Arms landlady has been informed by her GK operations manager that Harveys is to be removed from the pub on Monday 20th November.
More news as it happens.


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 Suffolk brewers/pub owners Greene King.

In my part of Sussex, the aftermath of the Beard's sale was business as usual. Greene King were quoted in the local press as opting for minimal change beyond making more of their own beers available. I was told by a Greene King spokesperson that the view was, if it ain't broke, why fix it?

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 Suffolk: Beards tenants who had been allowed to pick and choose from wholesaler's lists were particularly affected. Now, the matter has boiled up over the removal of Harvey's beers.

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 Harvey's beers into their pubs, an exclusive agreement that, over the years, became relaxed as some Beard's pubs drew from an increasingly wide portfolio. However, Harvey's Best was invariably part of the mix and this continued into the first three years of the new ownership.

During that period, Greene King claim there has been a large swing from Harvey's to their own beers. I don't doubt this. With freedom to do as much in-house promotion as they wish, it is no surprise that sales of Greene King's beers have soared. Harvey's beers, though, are popular throughout the area. While some ex-Beard's pubs have removed them since the takeover, one would imagine the demand in the rest of the estate remains at a level sufficient to justify their continued availability.

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 Harvey's from the pub. Confirming that Harvey's would disappear from all the others, the managing director of Greene King's Pub Partners did what would appear to be an historical rewrite.

"We bought the pubs....and went round and told each and every tenant that we would be withdrawing Harvey's within six months", he claimed in the Sussex Express issue of 30 August. "Now we are and it's only people from one pub who are upset about it."

[But in] the next issue of the Sussex Express, the front-page headline celebrated the survival of Harvey's in those four Lewes pubs where it was on sale.

A different spokesperson from Greene King now claimed 'We have no plans to withdraw Harvey's from any of our Lewes pubs for the foreseeable future simply because we sell Harvey's so well in the town."

One suspects the decision taken over Lewes stems from the competitive element. Apart from it being Harvey's home town, there are enough good pubs selling their beers to tempt away any ex-Beard's regular who wishes to stick with them: this cannot be done so easily in smaller villages with just one pub.

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

'When you have lost your inns, drown your empty selves.
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.

Calling Time
The traditional English pub is being eaten alive by corporate consolidation
Guardian Weekend, 23 July 2005

In 1900, there were more than 6000 breweries in the UK. Today there are just over 500. Thirty three have closed since 1990, taking over 130 regional and national beer brands with them. The last decade has seen the end of, among others, Morrells of Oxford (founded 1782), Brakspear of Henley (1799), Castle Eden of Hartlepool (1826), Morland of Abingdon (1711), Ruddles of Rutland (1857), Courage of Bristol (1702) and Mitchells of Lancaster (1871) - names that were sources of national heritage, regional pride and local employment sold off, shut down or taken over. In 2005 we will say farewell to Strangeways of Manchester (brewers of Boddingtons) and Newcastle's Tyne Brewery (home to Newcastle Brown). They are unlikely to be the last.

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 Inn?
A smoking ban could be another nail in the coffin of the English pub
New Statesman, 7th November 2005

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


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
10 November 2006

A brewery planning to ban local brew Harveys from a Sussex pub has not changed the decision. Greene King will stop serving the beer at the Lewes Arms after Christmas, much to the dismay of the pub regulars. But the pub company's managing director Mark Angela indicated on Radio 4's Today Programme this week that Harveys could possibly return to the pub occasionally as a guest beer.

The regulars, who have been campaigning to keep Harveys, which is brewed in Lewes, at the pub have collected more than 1,200 signatures on a petition which they plan to present to Greene King.

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 Harveys has also been backed by local MP Norman Baker and the Campaign For Real Ale.

Some people carried protest banners at the Lewes Bonfire on Saturday.

We have received the following comments from Paul Sweetman, one of our supporters:

Dear John,
I was appalled at how the Argus misreported the Today Programme interviews. They completely misunderstood what what was being said. Merlin was great, but it's a shame that the spokesman for Greene King had the last word. I am a regular, but infrequent, visitor to the Lewes Arms. I consider it to be one of the best pubs in Sussex. I realised things were going wrong last winter when I met a friend for a taste of Harvey's Old. We had to go to the Gardeners Arms.

I used to be a regular at the Farm Tavern in Hove - this was also a Beards pub. The locals complained to Greene King when they decided to remove Harveys (a few years ago). We were told in a letter from a G.K. director that 'you never know Harveys may one day turn up as a guest beer'. It never did, but this served to quell the rebellion. The same line was taken in the Radio 4 interview. I remember phrases such as ' I don't think this has been ruled out', when asked if Harveys could be a guest beer.

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.

They have slowly taken Harveys away from the old Beards pubs - the Black Horse in Rottingdean, another great pub, lost Harveys a year or so ago. It is now a sad place to visit, as the Harveys drinkers have gone elsewhere. Instead of taking the local brew away from all the pubs in one go, they have cleverly fought one battle at a time. I believe that they probably know exactly what they are doing.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


John May is spearheading the Friends of the Lewes Arms campaign to try to keep Lewes’ favourite beer in Lewes’ most iconic pub. I arrive at the pub in question, The Lewes Arms, buy a pint of the bitter in question, Harveys, and look round for him. At first I don’t see him, then I do. John, a regular, seems to blend into the background. When I greet him, he’s excited. “We’re in Private Eye today,” he says. Since we have first mentioned this issue in these pages, the campaign has gone, quite literally, global. When it was informally reported several weeks ago that Greene King was to stop serving Harveys in the Lewes Arms, one of three pubs the Suffolk company owns in Lewes, and one of over 2,600 it owns nationwide, John put the news on his personal blog, and we reported it in our webmag.

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.
Alex Leith

See the whole issue of Viva Lewes


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.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

PRESS REACTIONS: The Morning Advertiser

The following story has recently appeared in The Morning Advertiser (posted to its website on 6th November). Launched in 1794 and published in association with its founders, The Licensed Trade Charity, this weekly has long been considered the pub trade's favourite newspaper.

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.

Greene King wants to introduce a new ale brewed at its Suffolk home but the locals in Sussex have launched a campaign to save Harvey's. Over 1,000 signatures have been collected and even the local MP has stepped in to the row.

This week the campaign hotted up as bonfire night revellers in Lewes carried banners and wore anti-Greene King slogans on their clothes. Greene King was the talk of the town. I didn't see any effigies of Greene King directors but there were some pretty heated slogans

Bonfire night reveller
One reveller at the bonfire night celebrations said: "Greene King was the talk of the town. I didn't see any effigies of Greene King directors but there were some pretty heated slogans."

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.

"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."

Campaign organiser John May, of Friends of the Lewes Arms, said: "I am hoping sense will prevail. Both Harveys and the pub have been around since the 1720s. I know Greene King has a long heritage too but imagine how drinkers in Bury would feel if Harveys had taken over the Greene King pubs and removed their favourite beers from all but one pub, and then they threatened to remove it from that one too."


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.

Sunday, November 05, 2006


Photo: Roger Bamber

Bonfire night protest turns heat on brewery
· 60,000 expected to join traditional procession
· Campaigners fight back over ban on local beer

Nick Davies
Saturday November 4, 2006
The Guardian

More than 400 years after Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the monarch and his parliament, bonfire enthusiasts in a Sussex town yesterday embarked on a new plot to unseat a deeply unpopular king.

The pub and brewing chain, Greene King, has enraged the people of Lewes by trying to ban the sale of the locally brewed Harveys ale in the town's landmark pub, the Lewes Arms.

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 Harveys, can expect a further fiery assault tonight. Up to 60,000 people are expected to take to the town's streets to watch torchlight processions of men, women and children dressed as smugglers, native Americans, Venetian boatmen - and beer drinkers.

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 Harveys. Campaigners say the pub sells some 75,000 pints of Harveys a year, accounting for 80% of the beer sold across the bar.

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 Harveys as an occasional guest beer but a spokesman insisted the company was not willing to change its decision to ban it from permanent sale.

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/04 November 2006


BOSSES at Suffolk-based Greene King could have their effigies torched as part of Bonfire Night celebrations on the south coast. In recent years, the famous bonfires of Lewes, in Sussex, have seen effigies of George W Bush and Osama Bin Laden engulfed in flames.

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 Harveys would be withdrawn at the end of the year.

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 Harveys” was mounted to pressure the Suffolk brewer into changing its mind. The petition has been signed by 1,000 people so far.

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. 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.

“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 Harveys and warned the pub's future was in jeopardy if it was taken off the pump.

Mr May said: “I am hoping sense will prevail. Both Harveys and the pub have been around since the 1720s. I know Greene King has a long heritage too but imagine how drinkers in Bury would feel if Harveys had taken over the Greene King pubs and removed their favourite beers from all but one pub, and then they threatened to remove it from that one too.

“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 Harveys on a reciprocal arrangement.

Friday, November 03, 2006


The issue of Greene King removing Harveys from the Lewes Arms was raised on the BBC Radio 4's TODAY programme this morning. After chatting with our Mayor Merlin Milner, the interviewer talked to Mark Angela, Managing Director of Greene King - his first public appearance on this issue - who had the following to say:

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

There may just be.

You can listen to the whole programme again here
The interview aired at approx 8:40

Thursday, November 02, 2006


Some folks as comes to Sussex
They rackons as they knows
A darn sight better what to do
The silly folks like me and you
Could possibly suppose
But them as comes to Sussex
They mustn't push and shove
For Sussex will be Sussex
And Sussex won't be druv

W. Victor Cook

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


Greene King boss faces a roasting

The boss of the Greene King brewery could have his effigy burnt with that of Guy Fawkes this Sunday as a row with drinkers at a Sussex pub escalates.

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.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/11/01 16:37:49 GMT


Drinkers take on brewery in beer battle
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?"