Pubs / Scotland / 19 November 2020

Tied Pubs Bill Would Destroy Investment at Most Crucial Time say Operators

The Scottish Beer and Pub Association is today (Thursday) calling on MSPs to reject the proposed Tied Pubs Bill when it is voted on one week today.

Emma McClarkin, Chief Executive of the Scottish Beer & Pub Association, said:

“This Bill is not evidence-based, and far from helping Scotland’s pubs, it poses a real danger to future investment in the sector, entrepreneurship opportunities, threatens jobs and it should be resoundingly rejected by MSPs.

“Covid-19 has decimated the pub sector in Scotland. Pubs directly support over 45,000 jobs in Scotland and many of them face an uncertain future as they struggle to get back on their feet and adapt to the changing circumstances that Covid-19 presents.

“Pubs need support from MSPs, not legislation that misunderstands the Scottish market and has already been found to be unnecessary by an independent report commissioned by the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament’s Economy Committee.

“The fact is, this Bill was ill conceived before Covid-19, but it would be economically ruinous to the sector if it was passed in the current circumstances and it is vital that all MSPs show their support for Scottish pubs by voting this Bill down at Stage 1.”

Pubs tenants have also urged MSPs to save their pubs by voting AGAINST the Tied Pubs Bill.

Operator Andrena Bowes, who is tenant and operator of seven pubs in the Edinburgh, the Lothians and Fife said:

“The coronavirus has devastated the pub sector and politicians should be focused on that, not wasting time on proposals which aren’t wanted and definitely not needed.

“As a tenant under the tied model, I can speak personally of its success and joint-partnership model, which sees a sharing of the risks and rewards.

“During the pandemic, my pub company has provided constant advice, support, reimbursement for unusable stock and have also reduced rent, which without would have forced us to close our doors for good.

“The news that this proposal is even being considered in light of the pandemic makes you want to cry. Hospitality businesses are begging for meaningful economic support that could save their livelihoods and jobs of their staff, and politicians are wasting time discussing technical rules which impacts a tiny minority of pubs.

“Above all, pubs need certainty, but Neil Bibby’s bill removes what little certainty we have at this time. MSPs can give a little bit back by voting against the Tied Pubs Bill next week.

“MSPs of all parties need to stop playing politics and start saving pubs.”

Pointing to the unintended consequences of the proposal, tenant and pub operator with premises across Central Scotland, Craig McLaughlin added:

“The Tied Pubs Bill would be disastrous for pubs in Scotland and it comes at the worst possible time as the industry is already on its knees.

“The whole hospitality industry needs stability, certainty and investment right now. This bill offers none of these. Investing in pubs is absolutely critical to their survival. This bill not only ensures that much needed investment programmes stop, it also adds layers of additional costs and bureaucracy to an already overburdened trade.

“One particular area that I would see under immediate pressure is that of safety and compliance. All businesses take the safety of staff and customers very seriously, however as an unintended consequence this bill will shift the responsibility to the tenant to ensure regulations are adhered to.

“At present, the burden on compliance and legally required checks such as emergency lighting, fire equipment, gas safety, electrical inspections and maintenance, all fall to the landlord to ensure that the site is safe for trading. These companies have networks and the resources to track and complete works.

“Under the Free of Tie model, the tenant of the property is required to take on these responsibilities, meaning a fragmented approach to health and safety, resulting in things falling through the cracks as small operators don’t have the capacity or resources to deal with the ever-increasing compliance requirements.

“It has been my experience from my many years in the trade, that some Free of Tie pubs fell short of the basic health and safety standards, sometimes due to a lack of understanding of their obligations and in other cases not having the funds to do so.

“I understand MSP’s are not familiar with the inner workings of this industry. Those who vote for the bill next week would, albeit inadvertently, be responsible for the loss of jobs as a result.

“Don’t impose legislation that is neither wanted nor required.”

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