The GMB union is today staging a demonstration outside Sheffield County Court in support of a publican who faces court action because he cannot meet the payments set by pubco Enterprise Inns.
David Ball, a GMB member, may be forced to leave his pub, The Fleur De Lys, in Sheffield if he loses the hearing. He is one of the pub tenants who last week met Gordon Brown, at GMB’s Congress in Blackpool, in a bid to push the Prime Minister to refer the anti-competition pubcos to the Office of Fair Trading.
Graham Benton of the GMB said: "David Ball is a tenant of one of the pubcos Enterprise Inns, which are overcharging on the wholesale price of beer, fixing unrealistic rents and levying unjustifiable charges. He is unable to pay these charges and now faces court action where he may lose both his home and his livelihood."
A recent report by the Commons’ Business and Enterprise Committee called for the pubcos to be referred to the Competition Commission after it found that two thirds of tenants earned less than £16k per year.
In April GMB published data that showed that in the UK as a whole, over a three year period, a total of 1,131 pubs belonging to seven pubcos were closed.
Enterprise Inns said it would not comment on this case, but in an interview with the Financial Times in April, chief executive Tep Tuppen defended the tenant/pubco relationship and dismissed criticism levied at him from a bankrupt ex-tenant.
He said: "It is not in our interest to have a failing pub so we work very hard to ensure that licensees have realistic business plans, are adequately financed and properly trained. We never seek to deceive through painting too rosy a picture, it simply wouldn’t be in our interest.
"We do find that occasionally people simply are not up for what is, after all, a very difficult job. For this reason, every agreement has a break clause, allowing any licensee who is unhappy to leave without penalty during the first six months in occupation."
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