Campaign's call to 'Stop the Pub Rent-Rip-Off'

Date published: 08 July 2020

The Campaign for Pubs, the grassroots campaign for pubs, publicans and all pub lovers, has called on the Government to take action to stop the pub rent-rip-off if they are serious about saving pubs rather propping up huge corporations and property companies. 

Last month the Chronicle reported on Colliers' licensee David Mowbray's fury as his pub's full rent was still being demanded by Punch Taverns.

The Campaign for Pubs has welcomed the fact that pubs have been allowed to open again, with strict social distancing measures in place.

However, trade is restricted and for nearly all pubs, considerably reduced and many pubs are still not able to open viably.

In addition, surveys show that many customers are not yet returning to the pub.

Yet some pub-owners, some of whom have been charging full rent throughout lockdown, are charging rent based on normal trading conditions and figures, which threatens the survival of thousands of pubs.       

The Campaign for Pubs have written to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Rt. Hon. Alok Sharma MP, urging the Government to take action to tackle the pub rent-rip-off, because the large pub-owning companies are failing to abide by the voluntary Covid Rent Code of Practice and are charging rents that bear no relation to current restricted trading conditions. 

It is already clear from figures supplied by licensees up and down the country, including Campaign for Pubs members, that trade is restricted and reduced and that this will be the case for months to come.

Campaign for Pubs licensee members are reporting that trade for those that could open over the weekend was down by anything between 30% and 60% from the same time last year.  

Pub tenants and lessees are also reporting that unrealistic rents, are the biggest threat to the continued existence of their pub businesses and that rent needs to be correspondingly reduced across the board. 

The Campaign for Pubs have welcomed the Secretary of State’s comments that “Our pubs, restaurants and cafes are the lifeblood of high streets and town centres across the country, and we are doing all we can to ensure they can bounce back as quickly and safely as possible”. 

However, in order for those words to be put into action publicans now urgently require action to stop the charging of unreasonable and unsustainable rents – and need the Government to step in and help all pub tenants by giving them all the right to a rent review.  

The Campaign for Pubs are calling for the Government to do the five key things: 

Bring in a meaningful mandatory Covid-19 rent code of conduct including a statutory right to a rent review for all pub tenants.

Call on all pub-owners who rent and lease pubs to offer a rent-free period for all pubs and an extended period of protection from landlords if rent cannot be paid.

Abolish all “upward-only” rent review clauses in all pub leases so that it is possible to reduce rents in future rent reviews if trading conditions continue to make current rents unsustainable.

To apply these measures to all tenants, including MRO/commercial tenants.

In the case of the big six Regulated pubcos covered by the Pubs Code, the right to a market-rent-only (MRO) lease should be available to all of their tenants and leaseholders in place of a rent review to ensure a level playing field throughout pubs in the UK, and the original determination of the Pubs Code being 'no worse off'.

Paul Crossman, Chair of the Campaign for Pubs and licensee of three pubs in York, said: “It’s positive that some pubs are able to open, but is clear from publicans that pubs will not be at normal trading levels for some time and rents must reflect this but do not.

"It’s a disgrace that many pub-owning companies are ignoring this and seeking unreasonable levels of rent.

"Unless tackled by the Government, this will cause many pub businesses to fail.

"It’s disappointing but not surprising that the pubcos trade association are refusing to tackle this and are hoping that their big pubco members can continue to charge sky-high rents.

"So it’s crunch time for the Government, are they going to support local pubs or the faceless corporations who own our local pubs?

"It’s time to stop the pub rent-rip-off and to save pubs, not prop up pubcos”. 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced in today's mini-budget that he is to cut VAT on hospitality as part of a £30bn plan to prevent mass unemployment as the economy is hit by coronavirus.

Mr Sunak announced a scheme to give 50% off to people dining out in August.

The chancellor warned 'hardship lies ahead', but vowed no-one will be left 'without hope,' in a statement to MPs.

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