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Pint-sized row comes to a head

Date online: 03 January 2012

A POPULAR pub was closed on the busiest day of the year in an alleged row over “too full” pints.

Staff and customers were stunned when one of the multi-millionaire owners of Samuel Smith’s Brewery walked in and shut down Royton’s Junction Inn at 8.30pm on New Year’s Eve.

The move was the culmination of a long-running row over the size of the head served on pints at the pub.

Licensee Debbie Gibson (47) and her husband Pete (48) have been suspended on full pay. They fear they will lose their jobs and their home at the Rochdale Road pub.

The couple’s daughter, Lisa Hunt, said brewery owner Humphrey Smith had told the couple that they must pour drinks which are 95 per cent liquid and 5 per cent head — and that they owe the brewery £10,733 in lost stock for selling pints with smaller heads.

However, the couple say they serve pints with the size of head customers want.

Mrs Hunt said: “It is absolutely appalling how they have been treated. They have worked really hard for Samuel Smith’s for a long time.

“It’s their livelihood, it’s their home.

“They have done everything to make the pub a really good place where a lot of regular customers come.

“Trading Standards say it is illegal to demand that pubs serve a 5 per cent head. If a customer is paying for 100 per cent of their pint that’s what they are entitled to.”

Mr and Mrs Gibson have run the pub for 12 years and have worked for Samuel Smith’s for around 16 years.

Their daughter alleged that the brewery was planning to lock the couple out of the bar and bring in a new manager — and said that dispute had affected her parents’ health.

“My dad has gone to the doctor’s with stress and anxiety. There are instances where I have had to rush dad to hospital because of this.

“The support they have had from their customers and friends has been fantastic and they need that continued support.

“They are fighting this for the customer. They do not want to rip them off,” she added.

The GMB union has previously said that there is confusion over the size of the foam head on a pint of beer, with a legal minimum of 95 per cent being interpreted as a maximum by many pub chains.

It has written to the Government saying that contracts are being based on targets which are impossible to meet if smaller heads are served.

The Junction Inn has a letter from Trading Standards North West stating that it may be an offence to refuse a customer’s request for a pint of more than 95 per cent liquid.

The letter adds: “The group would further condemn any business that seeks to place a burden upon its staff by expressly demanding that a surplus of 5 per cent be achieved through the practice of delivering no more than 95 per cent of a pint to customers.”

A regular at the pub told the Chronicle: “It’s bang out of order. We have got the friendliest landlord and landlady — how can you treat people like that who are just looking after their customers?”

The Chronicle contacted Mr Smith yesterday who said “we have nothing to say” before hanging up.


At a time when breweries should be doing all they can to promote trade and welcoming custom with open arms what do Sam Smith's do - push it the other way! Well done, JW Lees must be rubbing their hands ready to take over!

When is a pint not a pint?? When you are served in a Samuel Smith public House. So remember people if you actually want to drink a full pint then dont go to one of their pubs.Nice way to make a profit that Mr Smith as if you dont charge enough

How absolutely disgusting that these two have been suspended for not wanting to con their customers. I suggest that if a temporary landlord is installed, then all the regulars should boycott the pub while the temp is in residence and hit Smith's brewery where it obviously hurts most, in the till. Good luck to the landlord and landlady in their battle, and hats off to you for your honesty and loyalty to your customers.

Vote with your lips and tongue, don`t drink their beer if they give you short measures

If Mr Smith was a half decent person who had any friends he he would have been celebrating with them, not closing the pub and spoiling New Years Eve for the regulars who pay his wages.

Sam Smiths should be using the Gibson as an example of good customer care not harrassing them!Disgraceful penny pinching.

OK, customers can vote with their feet if they do not want to drink a pint with less head on it, but the owners of the brewery are in charge of the pub and not the landlord and his wife. If the brewery want a pint to be served in a particular way then that is the way it should be.

The above report states that the landlord and his wife had been told by the brewery what was expected, but it seems they had decided to still do things their own way - if so, I have no sympathy for them.

Absent regular, but cant believe this nonsense. One of the few proper pubs left with great service, friendly staff and beer served the way it should be.
Shame on you Mr Smith & Co

I've heard about Samuel Smith's actions before from a landlord in another part of the North West.

This will backfire on them and good. Closing a pub on NYE has probably lost them a couple of grand already.

I'd like to know where you drink Jantay, must be at home, because Samuel Smiths pubs charge around £1.50 for a pint, most other owned company pubs charge £2.80-£3.00 for a pint.

I wonder how much lost revenue Smith's has lost by closing the pub on New Years Eve. Quite a proportion of the £10,000 I would think.
I think the landlords are playing with fire though, as they stand to lose much more than the owner.
Sorry state of affairs.
Back in the day, when i was woking in a pub, the people generally wanted a decent head on the beer, the worlds gone mad.

This brewery has always sold its beer at lower prices and this explains why! They used to operate a "measured pint" system on the pumps which took the quantity issue out of the hands of the landlord/manager.

THOU DUMBER - have you ACTUALLY read the article? Or are you a director of said brewery ? The point is, these people have been suspended because they refuse to con their customers into accepting 5% less of the 100% pint they have paid for. If each time your milkman regularly delivered you a pint of milk with 5% missing you would soon complain surely? Look at it this way if a pint is £2.50 then for every 20 pints sold the brewery have stolen £2.50 from customers. Large scale robbery !

Shocking customer relations Humphrey!

jackspratt .. Yes, I agree with all your calculations and that customers might feel ripped off. However, the point I am making is that the brewery run the pub, not the landlord and his wife. Therefore if the brewery have given them instructions about how pints should be served and the couple have refused to obey, they cannot complain about the consequences. If customers don't want their pint the way the brewery does, they should just go elsewhere

THOU DUMB - so if your employer encouraged you to con or shortchange their customers by 5% on every sale, you would think it acceptable to do so because you were told to? I don't think I would - yes I would do my job according to my boss's wishes - but would draw the line at theft, which is what the practice of not giving customers 100% of what they have paid for amounts to in my very humble opinion. I cannot in any way understand your view that is acceptable to con customers for any reason.

The bar staff at my local hostelry usually ask if I want my pint of Sam Smith's dark mild topping up as a matter of course; but it is free house so the brewery have no control how the beer is served. Similarly they have no control over the price £1.50 per pint

Try buying a Guinness with only 5% head on it.

Those poor people!!! Even if you are only paying £1.50 you are still paying for a full pint not 95% of a pint. I live down sarf now and I must admit I do miss a good head on my lager but as the saying goes "The customer is always right". They need to give them back their jobs and compensation for the stress they have caused!!!!

still a landlord after 30years i serve sam smiths yorkshire in my bar i fill the pint to the top and the head sits outside the pint i am the owner of my freehouse pub but take my word had humph commented on the head level on my servings he would find the operation to remove his 18 gallon keg from within himself very painful the ultimate responsibility for any licensing or measure issue lies with the licensee not humph best of luck to the poor couple

How sad have you got to be when you go in a pub on New Years eve and close it down.......get a life Mr Sam Smith

Does Humphrey Smith go to his Petrol Station and say 10 Gallons please, but 5% less is acceptable.

jackspratt .. If I thought my employer was breaking the law I would report them to the police or trading standards, not just take matters into my own hands. It is up to the authorities to deal with the matter, not the landlord and his wife.

I am a local of the pub/ friend- thank you jackspratt for your support for Debbie & Pete, I agree with everything you have written. Thou Dumber you will find Debbie & Pete run the pub not the brewery as it is Mr Gibson's licence! The brewery own the pub & stock, to sell products you have to abide by the law! Trading standards are aware of Humphrey Smith, I think the authorities should get invovled & get justice for the couple. It is in the couples own hands as it is their licence, livelyhood!


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