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I had an e-mail yesterday from Mike Benner of CAMRA trumpeting CAMRA’s “fantastic campaigning success” in securing “a major package of reforms to support pubs”.
To support community pubs, the Government has announced:

  • Greater protection for pubs under threat of demolition
  • A ban on the anti-competitive practice of imposing restrictive covenants on the sale of pubs
  • Greater flexibility for pubs to diversify by adding shops and other facilities without planning permission
  • £1 million Government funding for Pub is The Hub
  • £3 million to support Community pub ownership
  • Greater freedom for pubs to host live music without a specific licence

To reform the operation of the beer tie to ensure a fair deal for tenants and consumers, the Government has announced:

  • A one year deadline to fully implement the recommendations of the BIS Report before the government intervenes with legislation if necessary
  • A guest beer right for tied tenantsA free of tie option for tied tenants

Forgive me for thinking this is all just pathetic fiddling while Rome burns. As long as we continue to see no amendment of the smoking ban, above-inflation duty hikes and the constant insistence that drinking two pints at a sitting will lead to an early grave, not to mention the prospect of slashing the drink-driving limit and thus rendering thousands of pubs unviable, the pub trade will remain under serious threat and for government ministers to pose as its friend is laughable. There couldn’t be an election imminent, could there?
Face facts, despite the liberalisation of licensing hours, this has proved to be the most anti-pub government since the days of Lloyd George.
And Clive Aslet isn’t too impressed in today’s Times:
There is a tiny irony in this. Not only might it be argued that the Government itself has precipitated the closure of many pubs by making it illegal to smoke in them — a blow to the traditional boozer, where sons of toil would spend all evening, perhaps several nights a week. Without this trade, licensees have only been able to survive by reinventing their establishments as gastro pubs, serving meals at prices that few locals could afford. I shouldn’t worry; I don’t smoke. I like the fact you can get a decent meal on your travels. But now the Government is considering making it impossible to get into a car if you’ve had so much as a single pint of bitter. That means they’ll lose my custom too.