There was much fanfare when the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) launched its campaign against further rises in beer tax. This was held to demonstrate that the TPA was on the side of beer drinkers, the kind of customers that keep public houses viable. It therefore followed that, especially as the campaign was launched in a pub, the TPA did not want to see further closures in that sector.
But, apart from trying to associate closures with beer tax, the TPA has done precisely nothing to stop the onward march of closures, which are often enforced by PubCos, with tenants finding their business has been sold from under them and they are therefore out of a job. Insult is added to injury with around half of UK licensees existing on less than £15,000 a year.
So when Zelo Street invited the TPA to join a gathering at the Caledonia, a street corner pub in Liverpool that had been revived by tenant Laura King, only to be sold from under her by Admiral Taverns, there was no surprise that none of their dubiously talented array of non-job holders turned up to enjoy the fine choice of cask beers and the bonus of an excellent open mic night.
After all, businesses like PubCos are just the kind of people that the TPA can target for donations: the synergy of organisations wanting to please themselves and an Astroturf lobby group championing the freedom for them to do just that is obvious. But in the meantime, locals, Liverpool Council, and Mayor Joe Anderson worked behind the scenes to get the enforced closure reversed.
And, to the great relief of all concerned, the new owners of the Caledonia have visited the pub, seen that it is a thriving and most certainly viable business, sat down and talked with Ms King, and decided that they do not, after all, want to close it. Moreover, the pub will now become a genuinely free house, so Ms King can buy the beers she wants from whom she wants.
That is another downside of the PubCos: despite their not having the interest in beer that the brewers (like Marstons, Robinsons and Greene King) have, they maintain the “beer tie”, forcing tenants to source beer via the PubCo, with prices dictated by the PubCo. This is another less than attractive part of the PubCo deal that the TPA has managed not to campaign on.
So much for that campaign to keep beer costs down: the TPA wants you to “look over there” at beer tax, while allowing its pals in the PubCos to screw over their tenants and eject them on a whim. In the meantime, fortunately, it’s great news about the Caledonia, and well done Laura King.
Which means, as Arnie might have said, I’ll be back. And so will many more. But the TPA won’t be there, because ordinary people don’t matter to them.