Birmingham pubs are celebrating new legislation that they say will bring down the price of a pint – and potentially stop landlords from going bust.
A new Pubs Code has been given final approval in Parliament, giving thousands of community pubs more power to buy beer without restrictions imposed by the pub companies that own them.
Previously ‘tied pub tenants’ were forced to buy supplies like beer at hugely inflated prices from the breweries which owned the building.
But now the bill, which will now go forward for Royal Assent will mean that they can look further afield – allowing them to get a much better deal for their customers.
In Moseley, licensee Keith Marsden said the news will benefit his pub, the Prince of Wales, owned by Spirit Pub Company.
When asked whether The Prince would now lower its beer prices, Mr Marsden said: “We probably will, yes. Pub companies have a lot of power to buy beer cheaply from brewers because they’ve got thousands of pubs.
“But the most common way they let their pubs is with a tied lease which means you’re then forced to buy beer from your landlord.”
Mr Marsden says this arrangement has seen some pub companies selling beer to licensees at 50 per cent higher than the market rate.
He added: “The pub companies have been able to abuse their position and squeeze pubs till they close.
“Pubs have had to contend with a lot over the last 10 years – the smoking ban, cheaper alcohol in supermarkets, etc. – but the biggest problem has been that pub companies have been too greedy and taken too big a share of the profits made by each pub.
“It has left a lot of pubs unable to make even a living wage and hundreds of pubs have gone out of business because of this.
“At one point we were seeing 60 pubs close a week and the West Midlands has been one of the worst hit areas in the country.”
The new legislation is designed to rectify the imbalance of power, creating a Pub Code (a code of practice) to prevent pub companies from treating pubs unfairly.
There’s also a new “Market Rent Only” rule so that a pub on a tied lease should pay no more rent than a similar free trade pub.
Mr Marsden, who also runs The Dark Horse in Moseley (a free trade pub), said: “Not only do I hope we can buy beer at cheaper prices but, crucially, we can now buy different beers.
“At the moment we buy off a standard list – and the pub company like us to buy standard lagers – but today people like to try small artisan products which are very difficult to get in a tied lease situation.
“There are a lot of ales we would love to buy but that’s been difficult.”
Since taking over the Prince, Mr Marsden has spent the last eight years protesting against unfair tied leases and campaigning for new legislation.