Monday, April 23, 2007


Punter power (and G2) saves the regulars' favourite tipple

Tim Minogue
Monday April 23, 2007
The Guardian

Drinkers in the Sussex town of Lewes have just spent a weekend of mild frustration after brewers Greene King caved in on Friday and agreed to restore the Lewesians' beloved tipple, Harveys Bitter, to the town's most popular pub, the Lewes Arms. Hundreds of regulars had boycotted the 220-year-old inn since December, when the company withdrew the award-winning local beer despite a 1,200-signature petition and appeals from the town's MP, Norman Baker, in an attempt to force locals to drink GK's own IPA. Takings plummeted by 90% and Greene King garnered barrel-loads of bad publicity after being portrayed by regulars as an insensitive corporation ignoring the wishes of its customers.

After G2 covered the dispute in March, it became a story around the world. On Friday, as protesters outside the pub were being interviewed by a reporter from the German news magazine Der Spiegel, Greene King finally gave up the fight. The company's new managing director of local pubs, Jonathan Lawson, turned up and announced that Harveys would be restored from this week: "Following secondary fermentation in the cellar, it should be ready to drink towards the end of the week." Therein lies the Harveys' fans' frustration. Because this is "real" ale, they can't get stuck into their favourite until Thursday.

But it hasn't stopped them returning to the pub. Shirt-maker Catherine d'Arcy said: "It's wonderful. I've just been back in and it's like getting your home back after wrongful eviction. It was hippies versus suits and we won."

Fran Maloney, 51, a housing officer, said: "We've shown that it's possible for a small group of committed people to change the mind of a huge company. We knew the loss of trade was hardly going to make a dent in their huge profits, but the loss of reputation would really make them think, so that's what we had to aim for, and we succeeded." As a regular myself, I'll drink to that.


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