Pint-sized row comes to a head

Date published: 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.