Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Christmas and New Year is normally the busiest time of year in the pub trade; not so for the Lewes Arms. Thanks to a largely spontaneous boycott spread by word of mouth, most sessions have seen the pub almost empty. It closed on Christmas Day for the first time in years, and opened very late on Boxing Day. New Year’s Eve looked a very sad replicant of happier times.

The boycott has been supplemented by vigils at times that were previously busy; as a result many visitors to the town have taken their custom elsewhere, particularly as many were coming to the pub specifically to drink Harveys.

The Friends of the Lewes Arms issued a press release (see below) at the end of the holiday season.

The latest development (January 8th) is that the Lewes Arms Dramatic Society has decided to take its panto on tour this year - see their press release below.

The LADS will be performing Babes in the Hood at the Constitutional Club March 5th to 10th inclusive.

This was a difficult decision for the LADS, whose 30th anniversary this is, and it would be good if everyone could work together to make this their most successful year yet for fund-raising. They have a special charity this year, as you will see from their release. They may also need practical help with moving, erecting or storing sets.

Boycott Greene King and Lewes Arms badges have nearly sold out their first pressing, with more than 800 being sported round the town. Car window stickers with the same message will be available shortly.


A drop of disloyalty from disgruntled drinkers

Regulars at a pub in Lewes, East Sussex have been staying away in droves following the withdrawal of the local beer by the giant brewers, Greene King. Since the last pint of Lewes-brewed Harveys, the most popular beer sold in the pub, was pulled in the Lewes Arms on 10th December, there has been a boycott of the pub by its regulars who have held a vigil outside the pub at peak times during the two busiest drinking weeks of the year.

Andy Gammon, of the Friends of the Lewes Arms, is delighted with the success of the boycott. “The pub has been almost empty in the holiday period,” he said. “When we’ve explained what we’re doing and why, people have been almost 100% supportive of our protest and gone to drink elsewhere in the town. The pub even stayed shut on Christmas Day, when it’s usually full to bursting. We’ll keep this up until Harveys is back on sale in our local. We know they’re a huge company and it will be hard to hurt them financially, but we’re even more determined now that we know how much the people of Lewes are behind us. We reckon their seasonal trade must have dropped by at least 90%.”

So that Greene King doesn’t mistake the lack of sales in January and February for the usual seasonal quiet patch, campaigners have produced a “disloyalty card”, which is stamped or signed by the publican every time a drink is bought elsewhere. The completed cards will be sent to Greene King, so that they can be under no illusions about the business they are losing.

The Friends aren’t just miffed at not being able to get their usual pint in their local. They claim that trucking beer 180 miles when there is a perfectly good brewery half a mile away is not helping reduce food miles, and that Greene King’s refusal to offer a local alternative to its own beers in its pubs is part of a trend of creeping homogenisation in the licensed trade, in marked contrast to their claim to cater for every taste in their pubs. Former regular Fran Maloney said “Greene King are turning into the Tesco of the pub trade and it was the idiosyncratic nature of the Lewes Arms that made it so great. Taking out the best selling beer, despite a 1,200 signature petition, shows that they’re only listening to their accountants, not their customers. Hopefully, they’ll listen to the footsteps marching off to other pubs in town and come to their senses. They certainly won’t be listening to the tills, they’re almost silent.”

Harveys Sussex Best was voted best bitter in Britain by CAMRA in both 2005 and 2006.


The Lewes Arms Dramatic Society staged their first pantomime, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves in 1978. This production was inspired by a throwaway remark from the landlady at the time who noticed that her regular customers were appearing every Sunday evening dressed as Long John Silver Impersonators. Having suggested that they diverted their creativity into a fundraising activity, the pantomime tradition at the Lewes Arms was born with the first production raising money for the Lewes Lifeboat Appeal. Since then, the LADS have staged an annual pantomime, aimed at an adult audience and many local and national charities have benefited from the event over the years.

The Lewes Arms Dramatic Society (LADS) will be performing their 30th Annual Charity Pantomime at the Lewes Constitutional Club, High Street, Lewes from 5 to 10th March 2007. Their decision to take the production on tour this year stems from the current difficulties being experienced at the Lewes Arms following the pub's owners, Greene King, removing Harvey's beers.

Roz South, speaking on behalf of the LADS explained "We stage our annual pantomime in order to support charitable causes and over the last 29 years we have raised more than £60,000. This fundraising is at the very core of our activities and the LADS have come to the reluctant decision that it would be very difficult to stage a successful pantomime at the Lewes Arms this year. There is an especially poignant focus to our fundraising in 2007 since we will be supporting the Trust set up in memory of Sasha Spinelli, a former LADS trooper who was tragically killed in 2006.

"We remain very grateful for the support we've had from the Lewes Arms and its owners, tenants and managers over the last 29 years at the Lewes Arms and hope that we can return in less troubled times. However, following a generous offer of facilities, this year we will be presenting our touring production of 'Babes In The Hoodâ' at the Lewes Constitutional Club"