Tuesday, December 19, 2006


At approximately 12.47 Monday lunchtime, the Sussex Police received a call from the Lewes Arms public house complaining that a mob were besieging the building, shouting at customers and "leering through windows."

A WPC was swiftly dispatched to deal with the situation.

Arriving on foot minutes later, she encountered a crowd consisting of a middle aged woman in a tweed jacket, an alleged radio 4 newsreader (bearded), a younger woman with a baked potato and a black labrador dog with more than a suspicion of Collie about him.

Swiftly and calmly appraising the situation the WPC recognised that the only law being broken was the law of nature which dictates that on a cold winter's day people should be inside the Lewes Arms not loitering on the doorstep drinking tea, from mugs.

The mob informed her that their behaviour was forced by the lack of Harveys inside. Sceptical as to the veracity of this outlandish claim, the WPC entered the pub to determine any further intelligence and emerged some minutes later, visibly shaken to discover that there was indeed no Harveys. She spent some further time with the mob who had by now started eating toffees.

Assured that the immediate threat to public order had been averted the WPC returned to the adjacent Police Station from where she vowed to keep an eye on the mob by "glancing up from time to time".

The mob then headed in an easterly direction and were last seen in the Gardeners doing what can only be described as "enjoying themselves".

The dog remains under suspicion.

Monday, December 18, 2006


Wednesday lunchtime: I did the Wednesday lunch shift outside The Arms with Simon and we had some encouraging and friendly conversations with both customers and passers by. A group of guitarists had booked the pub for a workshop some time ago and they were both apologetic and supportive, pledging not to buy any GK products whilst on the permises. They took flyers and I watched through the window as they engaged in an involved discussion with staff. The organiser said future events will be held elsewhere until we win. An elderly lady who had a lunctime rendezvous looked shocked and outraged when we explained the reasons for the boycott and she says she will be contacting her former fiancee who used to work in the brewing industry. A number of passers by called out "keep it up" and "dont be druv" and even "no pasaran".

Saturday lunchtime: Well, we've all said that the weekend would be the acid test of the boycott, and this lunchtime the place was absolutely heaving - with one old bloke who was in the front bar when we arrived, a staff member's boyfriend who turned up out of loyalty for her (and stayed all of half an hour) and a couple of folk clubbers who had a prior booking but agreed not to drink GK. We invited eight out-of-towners to go elsewhere (mostly the Ellie) but they didn’t need much persuading and all of them already knew about the boycott; mostly they'd simply come along to see for themselves whether the tales were true.
One couple had come down from London specifically to drink Harveys in the Lewes Arms (no word of exaggeration) in the belief that it hadn't quite finished yet. And the crowning moment was when two men walked into the two-bar-staff/two-customers pub to be cheered and applauded by the staff, who thought they were seeing their first 'real' clients of the lunchtime and rare breakers of the boycott. The men asked for two pints of Harveys, got their answer and immediately left!

Sunday lunchtime:
On arrival, there were 6 people in the pub, 2 of whom left soon after we got there. Nine were persuaded to go elsewhere and were very supportive of the cause. Three people went in, all locals. There was a group of 3 in the corner of the games room, one of whom came to the front door to see what we were doing. Every time they caught our eye, they lifted their glasses and beckoned us in. On leaving, the lady who'd come to the door asked for a flyer and the other two tried to tell us we really ought to go in, it was lovely. I wonder if they were friends of the management or GK spies?

Sunday evening: Boy it was cold outside the Arms tonight! There were about six people in the pub when I arrived at 6pm. Managed to turn away four people in the course of an hour and a half so at least it wasn't a waste of time. One bloke went in saying he felt very guilty, he had a dog so didn't know where else he could go.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Campaign lost to save local ale

Wednesday, 13 December 2006, 13:39 GMT

A campaign to prevent a locally-brewed ale being withdrawn from an East Sussex pub has ended in failure.

Greene King, the Suffolk-based pub group which owns The Lewes Arms, said in October that it planned to replace Harveys Best Bitter with its own beer.

Lewes MP Norman Baker won two reprieves for the beer in the past month, but it has now been confirmed the bitter will be taken out of the pub.

Drinkers set up a campaign blog on the internet to save their favourite beer.


Greene King had said it wanted to "serve our own award-winning quality ales in our own pubs", but the Friends of The Lewes Arms pressure group wrote to the firm and Harveys Brewery pleading for a compromise.

Mr Baker said: "There were options which, in my view, would have allowed the local bitter to stay in The Lewes Arms while providing compensatory benefits for Greene King, but sadly it seems that such an agreement was not possible."

Writers on the protesters' blog threatened a boycott of The Lewes Arms if the bitter was withdrawn.

Harveys previously said it had been "touched by the loyalty" of drinkers at the 220-year-old pub


7th December 2006:

The first boycotters: Andy Gammon and Manek Dubash

Regulars from the Lewes Arms started a boycott of their local pub this week. The protest follows pub owner Greene King's removal of Harvey's, the local beer, from the bar.

On Tuesday lunchtime, two regulars leafletted those entering the pub and asked them to boycott the pub until the New Year. The protesters said that they had peacefully turned away almost everyone who headed for the pub, and that all passers-by had expressed support for their campaign. As a result, there remained only a handful of people inside.

Regulars say that the disappearance of the brew, which was voted Champion Best Bitter 2006 by real ale campaigners CAMRA, by pub owner Greene King is destroying the character of their favourite drinking hole. They also say that the Lewes Arms is a well-known pub that forms an important part of the character of the town, and that it should be selling the local product.

Greene King, which a couple of weeks ago was in discussions with local MP Norman Baker over the possibility of Harvey's remaining in the pub's cellars, has stuck to its policy of selling only its own beers, even though Harvey's reportedly outsold Greene beers in the Lewes Arms by four to one.

The Friends of Lewes Arms, as regulars call themselves, consists of a hard core of about 30 people who want to see the return of Harvey's, which is brewed a few hundred yards down the road from the Lewes Arms. Local campaigner John May said: "We are some of the people who care about our local and hope to hold Greene King to the high values that they claim to espouse. They can demonstrate this by leaving the Lewes Arms and its Harvey’s alone."

Greene King is currently running a advertising campaign urging people to support local pubs.


One of the ideas put forward as a way out of the impasse is for Harveys to continue to be on sale in the Lewes Arms as a “Guest Ale”, possibly on a reciprocal basis with a Greene King beer offered in one or more Harveys pubs. A few facts may lubricate the debate:

Brewery-owned pubs generally fall into two categories: they are either directly managed by the brewery, or leased to tenants.

In tenanted pubs, the tenants enter into a contract to buy specified beer from one source and in return pay rent lower than the market rate. In managed pubs, the manager is a direct employee of the owners and, in effect, sells whatever the owners wish to put on sale.

Even after recent sales of pubs, Greene King has more than 2,500 across the country, with both tenanted and managed pubs in the estate. The tenanted pubs have varying restrictions on what beer they can sell – for example, the Lamb in Lewes can have a guest ale (as long as it’s not Harveys!).

What is on sale in the managed pubs, like the Lewes Arms, is a matter for Greene King management in Bury St Edmunds.

Harveys has 47 pubs, all tenanted, and none of them have a “Guest Ale” provision in their leases. Just as with any contract, Harveys can’t change this even in one pub without the consent of the other party – the tenant.

It may well be that a “Guest Ale” provision in all pubs (see below for an explanation of the origin of this term) would be a good thing, and indeed CAMRA has a campaign to this effect.

But the playing field between Greene King and Harveys in this instance is hardly level: Greene King management can just tick a box and Harveys will be on sale in the LA for the indefinite future, as it has been since they bought it in 1998.

Even assuming anyone would want to buy Greene King beers in a Harveys pub, Harveys simply can’t impose that on a tenant. Who carries the cost if a barrel of IPA takes up bar space, then goes undrunk and passes its drink-by date?

Anyway, there is no proven demand from drinkers for Greene King beers to be introduced into new pubs in Lewes.

In the case of the Lewes Arms, and other Greene King pubs in the town, the demand for Harveys to be on sale is amply demonstrated, not least by a 1,200-signature petition.

It may yet be that some reciprocal guest ale solution can sort out this mess. This blog is not privy to whatever has been going on. But whatever the outcome, let’s not blame Harveys for the actions of Greene King.

As Peter Messer has succinctly put it, it’s not a matter of Harveys being a guest ale in the Lewes Arms – Greene King is a guest brewer in Lewes, and should behave with better manners.

“Guest Beer”

This term stems from the measures taken by the Thatcher government in the 1980s to break the vertical ties between brewers and their tenanted pubs.

The Guest Beer provision introduced with the Beer Orders never applied to managed houses like the Lewes Arms. In any event, it was abolished with the Beer Orders in 2002.

As it happens, the pub ownership threshold for brewers subject to the Orders when they were introduced was 2,000: Greene King now owns more than 2,500 and
Wolverhampton and Dudley, the other major “regional” brewer, also owns more than 2,000.

Some landlords still refer to “Guest Beers”, which adds to the confusion. Many national pubcos have restrictive leases that oblige tenants to buy all but one of their beers from the pubco: hence the term “Guest Beer” for those they are free to buy in. In Lewes, this is
Harveys in all cases unless otherwise forbidden.

The detail of the Beer Orders, for those who are interested:

A 1989 competition report aimed to loosen the tie between pub retailing and brewing to facilitate easier entry by, and increasing competition between, brewers, wholesalers and pub retailers.

Most of the recommendations were implemented, mainly by imposing the following changes on “national brewers”, that is, brewers with an estate of more than 2,000 on-licensed premises:

  • their retailers would be free of tie for non-beer drinks and low-alcohol beers
  • those retailers would have the right to buy one cask-conditioned beer and (as amended from 1998) one bottle-conditioned beer of their choice on the open market rather than through the brewer (the Guest Beer provision)
  • and they were allowed only to tie a certain number of pubs. This forced the national brewers to sell or free from tie about 11,000 of the then estimated 60,000 UK pubs

The competition authorities reviewed the Beer Orders in 2000 and concluded that since 1989 there been significant structural change, leading to an improvement in competition. In particular, over a third of the UK’s pubs had been transferred to retail pub chains that had acquired buyer power in relation to the national brewers.

19th February 2002, the U.K. government announced its intention to revoke the Beer Orders in their entirety.

The Campaign for Real Ale, CAMRA, is campaigning for a
Guest Beer Right to be reinstated for both tenanted and managed (like the Lewes Arms) pubs.

CAMRA says: A guest beer right would allow these pubs the choice of stocking one cask conditioned beer of their choice. This would have two huge advantages:

  • Increasing consumer choice. Allowing pubs to stock one beer of their choice will help them attract new customers by allowing them to stock an appealing guest beer.
  • Supporting small brewers. The biggest hurdle facing Britain’s small brewers is access to market. A guest beer right would transform the fortunes of small brewers by enabling all of Britain’s 60,000 pubs to sell one beer from a small brewer.

Research commissioned by CAMRA shows clear consumer demand for locally brewed beer. 55% of people indicated that they would like to see at least one locally brewed beer in every pub. In addition 31% of all adults who visit pubs would buy a locally brewed beer in a pub over non- locally brewed beer.


the beer has gone and the time has come

Monday, December 04, 2006


Discussions have been going on for the last two weeks between Harveys and Greene King regarding the future of the Lewes Arms with MP Norman Baker's involvement.

We have not been privy to the precise details of those discussions but were encouraged that some real dialogue was taking place at the right level. For much of this period we were receiving hopeful signals.

However, at the end of this process, the latest news we have from Norman, as of last Friday afternoon, is that, as things stand:

The Harveys will come out of the Lewes Arms after next Friday December 8th

We understand that Harveys and Greene King will be issuing a joint statement in due course.

At a recent public meeting of the Friends of the Lewes Arms, the majority of those present voted for a boycott of the pub and Greene King should the Harveys be removed. The objective of the boycott is to show Greene King, through their till receipts, how strong the feeling is about the issue and how much we disapprove of their actions. The boycott is especially important during the upcoming busy period over Xmas and the New Year.

We continue to hope that sense will prevail and that this boycott may still yet prove unnecessary.