Cleckheaton pub forced to close gets backing from local MP
Batley and Spen MP Tracy Brabin has today called for an immediate review of the Pubs Code after Cleckheaton's The Old House at Home closes its doors for good.
The publicans, Will and Gemma Frew, who turned the fortunes of The Old House at Home around, including investing significantly fixing a collapsing roof and leaking kitchen during their 6 years, told Ms Brabin they deserved better support during the Covid-19 crisis from major pub company Ei Group.
When the couple took over the pub in 2014, it was in a poor state that included a faulty cellar, leaking kitchen and collapsing roof. But after paying tens of thousands of pounds out of their own pockets, the couple managed to turn the business around, making it a well-loved community pub in Cleckheaton.
However, when pubs were forced to close their doors in March of this year, Ei Group – the UK’s biggest pub owning company – suspended rents but did not cancel them. While a representative from Ei assured Tracy Brabin’s office that the Group has offered their licensees discounts on future payments – in the form of trade and rent ‘credit’ – this is of little help to Will and Gemma, who feel they are unable to trade successfully due to the situation around COVID-19. Will and Gemma are now walking away from their pub and home in debt, after having invested six years of hard work and all of their savings and inheritance on rent, repairs and the running of the business. Tracy is working alongside Dave Mountford of the Forum of British Pubs – known online as Pub Defender – to try and get Will and Gemma’s rent arrears cancelled by Ei Group, in light of all the time and money the couple have put into the pub.
Commenting on their situation, Will and Gemma stated: “COVID-19 hasn’t caused most of the problems, it’s just highlighted how the big Pubcos treat their licensees, and it will continue unless they are made to change. A manager at Ei said he had done everything he could for us, yet after nearly 6 years of hard work we are still left in debt. We know our story is far from the worst situation publicans are in and we are hoping we can get all of our stories heard. We would like to thank Tracy Brabin for her help and support, as we finally feel someone is listening. We would also like to thank Dave Mountford for his continued support, not only to us but to hundreds of publicans in some very desperate situations.”
When Parliament returns in September, Tracy Brabin will be raising Will and Gemma’s personal case in the House of Commons and calling on the Government to review the Pubs Code, so that it guarantees better support for publicans. Commenting on the specific issues Will and Gemma have faced, Tracy Brabin stated: "Pubs are really important community hubs and our community has sadly lost a very popular one in 'The Old House at Home. Will and Gemma have done a fantastic job turning their pub into a popular local business and I'm determined to help them as much as I can. With better legislation around protecting and supporting licensees, Will and Gemma’s situation could have been dramatically different, and we would not be having another struggling small business go under during this awful pandemic.”
Notes to Editors
• Survey results from the Forum of British Pubs – https://www.surveymonkey.com/results/SM-CTRGPSSG7/ – show that 88% of publicans feel less confident after opening that they will be able to service their debt, and that 84% are less confident they will be open in a years’ time
• Four previous investigations examined mistreatment of leased and tenanted operators by the brewing industry and, as a result, the Pubs Code was introduced in 2016
• For further information please contact Josh Charters on 07885665972 or at Joshua.firstname.lastname@example.org