The Forum of British Pubs has welcomed the result of an investigation into Pub Code avoidance practices by Star Pubs and Bars.
The forum recognises this kind of bad behaviour from most of the regulated pub companies, and it says Star Pubs and Bars is far from the worst offender at attempts to avoid the code, its unreasonable demand for stocking requirements showing its desire to avoid the aim of the code to rebalance the market place and provide a fair and level playing field for pub tenants.
It said the size of the fine and the criticism in the Pub Code adjudicator’s (PCA) report sends a clear message to other regulated companies that the PCA has finally bared its teeth and this kind of behaviour is not acceptable.
The forum is now calling on PCA Fiona Dickie to focus her investigative powers on the use of dilapidations in the industry, which is used both to avoid the code and, most importantly, as an income stream, contrary to existing legislation in the form of the Landlord and Tenant Act.
Forum director, Dave Mountford, said: “Whilst the PCA has been frustratingly slow in responding to code avoidance issues and in launching any kind of investigation into bad business practices aimed at avoiding the code, we are obviously pleased that the PCA has finally acted on the undeniable activities of Star Pubs and Barsm and we look forward to working with her, particularly if she is willing to turn her attention to the other systematic unfair business practices perpetuated by the majority of the regulated pub-owning businesses, and in making sure that the Pubs Code finally starts to work in the way Parliament intended when it was first introduced.”
Nik Antona, chairman of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), said: “This is a good and deserved outcome for Star tenants and a landmark moment for the Pubs Code adjudicator. We are glad that the PCA has used her financial penalty powers for the first time.
“We hope this will send a clear message to regulated pub companies that they cannot get away with breaching the code. In this case, the PCA found repeated breaches of the code in multiple areas. We want to see further investigations from the PCA to make sure that other regulated pub companies are complying.
“The pub sector as we know it is currently under threat, due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis, and lack of proper financial support from central government. Pub companies need to be supporting their tied tenants through this, and at a very minimum this should mean fulfilling their basic obligations under the code. As we see further local lockdowns and forced closures periods, we are again calling on pub companies to do the right thing and cancel rent for publicans that are unable to trade.
“We are also looking forward to the publication of the Pubs Code Review, which we hope will expand the enforcement options available to the PCA so that she can act more quickly and decisively to clamp down on abuse of the code in future.”