The Pub Code: Leave It Gary, It's Not Worth It

Posted on Dec 15, 2020. by NTI

There is a lot you can learn during your typical pandemic. For example, did you have any idea there is such a thing as a 'Pub Code'? Billy and his mates have abided by this for years (well, since they were 15 and legally allowed - by their Dads - to go into pubs and drink irresponsibly). But their Code is based on three main premises:

1   Never look any person in the eye who has more ink than skin displayed to the world

2   Always place one hand on the wall and breathe out audibly when standing at a urinal (well away from any other member of humanity)

3   Never (under any circumstances) use words such as 'feel, 'understand', 'sorry', 'empathise', 'awful', etc. in any part of any conversation under any circumstances (ever)

Apart from that, you are good to go. It turns out there is another Pub Code; this one was was introduced by the Government in July 2016 and applies to all pub owning businesses who have more than 500 tied pubs in England and Wales. As a 'chaser', the Code regulates the relationship between the pub owning businesses and their tied publicans, placing statutory obligations based on the two core principles of fair and lawful dealing and that a tied publican should be no worse off than a 'free-of-tie publican'.

Alok Sharma, whose views on pubs appear to be more from the outside, in his Dad's car with a Coke and a packet of Salt n' Vinegar crisps, rather than inside looking from behind the bar at bleary-eyed people with little definable conversation, had promised to consult with publicans about the Code and strengthen it to more strongly regulate landlords, allowing tenants to more easily break the centuries old beer "tie". However, publicans are up-in-the-King's-arms about what they see as a "phoney review of the rules". Many of them, however chipper and chummy they seem on the surface, have been tied to the tie which forces tenants to buy beer and other products from their landlords at prices typically higher than market rates.

(We think this explains the origin of the well-used pub phrase, "It's not worth it, Gary.")

With 20,000 of Britain's 44,000 pubs still closed and those in London about to go even more eerily quiet from Wednesday (the capital moving into tier three from then) the British Pub Confederation has accused the Government of "tinkering around the edges of the Code", meaning that tenants are still not freed up to negotiate better lease terms with pubcos (which is apparently a word that has slipped seamlessly into the English language).

Ian Cass, vice chair of the Confederation, said: "If the Code was working as parliament intended, the industry would not now be in the state it is."

"Apart from the pandemic and national lockdown in four months out of the last eight, eh Ian?"

"Shut up. Pubco tenants entered the crisis in a weak position, carrying debt because they have low profit margins. Change is needed to give pubs a chance to recover." Mr Cass said (and even though he wasn't drinking 'Bass' with a 'lass' in Billy's head he was and we had to redact the next two sentences of this report).

The Altus Group have said that sticking with the Code as it is will mean another 3,635 closing their doors permanently and no amount of rapping loudly on them and shouting "It's 9.00am ... HELLO!" will encourage them to open again.

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