AS MANY North Devon pubs close or hang on by a thread, an independent survey by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) suggests that pub landlords are unhappy with big pub owning companies (pubcos).
500 pub landlords tied to big pub companies were interviewed by an independent research company on behalf of the FSB during September and October. They were asked about the amount of rent they pay and how much of the profits the pubco takes. A negative score indicates that more respondents are unhappy with their pubco on rents and think they take too much of the pub's profits.
Enterprise Inns and Punch Pub Company both scored -0.5, Star Pubs and Bars -0.3, Admiral Taverns Ltd 0.1, Greene King 0.4 and Marston's 0.9. A negative score suggests respondents think the pubcos charge too much rent and take too much profit.
According to the FSB, of those responding landlords tied to Enterprise Inns, which has some 6,000 UK pubs, 84% feel that Enterprise takes too much of the profits. Of respondents tied to Punch, which has some 4,000 pubs, 81% believe they take a much larger share of profits.
The FSB has long campaigned for a fairer playing field for tied publicans renting pubs from pubcos and claims that self-regulation has not worked. It is pleased that the Government is intervening and looking at legislative action.
Survey respondents say they would like to give more choice to their customers, with 62% wanting to stock a greater range of beers and 91% wanting to approach microbreweries.
"The big pubcos are as bad as each other and their tenants don't feel they are getting a fair deal," said John Allan, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses.
"The statutory code can't come soon enough. The largest pub companies are able to control the relationships to their own advantage and are under pressure to reduce their debts by increasing income from rent and selling off pubs. Considering current conditions we believe that it is not possible for the large pub companies to operate credible voluntary regulation."
A spokesperson for Enterprise said: "We are continuing to work hard with our publicans, thousands of whom recognise the benefits of the tied pub business model. It provides them with a low cost of entry giving them the opportunity to run their own business, and they receive the investment and support of a national pub company. Enterprise has worked closely with licensee groups over the past few years to develop new agreements offering greater flexibility for publicans, standard and incentive discounts and free-of-tie options."
Punch Pub Company did not respond to a request for comment.
For details visit fsb.org.uk