Pub landlord brews up storm in campaign for a better deal
A LANDLORD and union activist is campaigning to get a better deal for both microbreweries and pubs.
Dave Mountford has accused the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) of being used by large pub companies to boost profits to the detriment of both tied pubs and small beer producers.
Large pub firms such as Punch Taverns and Enterprise Inns argue that SIBA's direct delivery scheme gives microbreweries access to a large number of tied pubs, those contractually obliged to buy beer from pub companies.
Critics of the scheme among microbreweries cite restrictive practices and lack of clarity on pricing.
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As part of the campaign, Mr Mountford, the secretary of the Matlock branch of the GMB union, has contacted dozens of smaller beer producers across the country to canvas their opinion. He reports that he has support for his campaign from the majority of members of the Derbyshire Brewers' Collective, representing more than 20 beer producers in the county.
Mr Mountford, who runs The Boat Inn, in Cromford, said: "The SIBA direct delivery scheme is the only opportunity for microbreweries to put their product into tied pubs and that is a benefit, so we are not anti-SIBA.
"However, the downside is that the cost of that beer to tied pubs can be up to 80% more than it would cost on the open market, meaning that many simply cannot afford it."
Those microbreweries unhappy with SIBA cite annual membership fees in excess of £500, no guarantees that any beer would be sold and the organisation's inability to confirm prices that would be charged for beer, leaving breweries in the dark as to whether joining SIBA would be economical or not.
Some have also complained that their beers have been taken off the organisation's list of suppliers with no prior warning.
In an open letter to Mr Mountford, Nick Stafford, managing director of the SIBA direct delivery system, wrote: "I am extremely concerned with your factual inaccuracies and claims of improper administration of this company. Your accusations of administrative shortcomings, restrictive practice, price fixing and wanton de-listing of brands shows you to be totally uninformed of information which is in the public domain."
The GMB campaign led by Mr Mountford is part of a wider push to influence the Government's consultation process on the implementation of statutory regulation for the pub industry.
The union wants to see a free-of-tie option incorporated into leases and tenancies, enabling those running pubs to buy beer on the open market rather than through pub companies.