Coalition’s pub brawl over bid to help landlords
The Coalition was hit by a new split last night following claims that George Osborne is blocking plans by Business Secretary Vince Cable to save the ailing British pub. Liberal Democrat Mr Cable wants to launch a new watchdog to combat allegations that big pub companies are driving tied landlords to the wall by charging too much for beer and rent.
The new rules would give landlords the right to free themselves from brewers. But the Chancellor has stepped in amid Treasury claims that the changes could strangle the industry with red tape and put up the price of a pint. Mr Osborne has vetoed plans by Mr Cable to launch a public consultation this week, in the run-up to the introduction of new laws later this year.
Mr Cable says the best way to save pubs is to set up a statutory code governing the relationship between pub companies and publicans, backed up by an independent adjudicator. Pubs are currently closing at the rate of 20 a month, and nearly 29,000 of the 55,000 pubs in Britain are tied.
Conservative MP Brian Binley, who backs the new curbs, said last night: ‘The large pub owners have, quite literally, been drinking in the last-chance saloon for too long. These new controls are vital because some landlords have been brought to tears and the brink of bankruptcy by unfair terms. We treat post offices as a vital part of the community and it is time pubs were regarded in the same way.’
The rift between Mr Osborne and Mr Cable has fuelled fresh claims that the Chancellor has ‘sold out’ to big corporations and brewers at the expense of local communities. In the past the breweries were big donors to the Conservative Party, and close links remain in some areas. The two biggest pub owners, so called pubcos, are Enterprise and Punch Taverns. Other pubs are owned by local breweries. One insider said: ‘The pubcos have organised a highly expensive and sophisticated lobbying organisation and it seems as though it has had a big effect on Tory Cabinet Ministers.
‘The pubcos bought pubs when property prices were high and now prices have slumped they are trying to exploit landlords. All landlords want is the right to a fair rent and to serve the beer their customers want at fair prices.’
Vince Cable will be speaking at M&C Report’s Tenanted Pub Summit on 17 June at London’s Landmark Hotel, to book your place call: 01293 610403
Mail on Sunday

Review of ‘beer tie’ delayed
A planned consultation on the ‘beer tie’, under which publicans must buy beer from a certain brewer, has been delayed as Vince Cable’s Business Department wants more time to finalise its proposals. The industry had been expecting the review to be launched by this weekend at the latest, but sources said it would not now be launched for at least a fortnight.
The Business Secretary announced in January that there would be a consultation process to ask for views on the relationship between landlords and pub owners.
Mail on Sunday

Punch hits out at bondholders
The head of Punch Taverns hit out at disgruntled bondholders for not coming up with a viable alternative to the pub company’s latest restructuring offer which some spurned last week.
Stephen Billingham, executive chairman of the debt-ridden group, said: “They’re not pitching anything - there are no alternative proposals. We’ve not seen viable alternatives.” Punch has been in extended talks to restructure its £2.4bn of net debt, which consists of two securitised vehicles that require regular cash injections to keep them from breaching covenants.
The rejected offer would see investors in one of the vehicles, Punch B, write off a quarter of their £914m of debt. Creditors involved in the larger £1.5bn Punch A vehicle would see amendments in their financial covenants and defer restructuring in order to buy time for a turnaround in the business.
Mr Billingham said, however, that a number of bondholders simply did not understand the restructuring offer. “There has been a learning curve. It’s not confusing, it’s just complicated.”
The plan, which needs the approval of three-quarters of creditors in each debt vehicle for the restructuring to be implemented, could achieve a £463m cut in debt service payments over the next five years. One senior bondholder warned that the restructuring was unlikely to happen in its current form. “The only proposal from the five US hedge funds that control Punch has been publicly rejected by the senior bondholders,” he said.
“It is difficult to see how this restructuring gets launched in the first half.” Hedge funds such as Glenview Capital Management control the bulk of Punch’s equity.
FT Weekend

BT and Sky clash over televising football’s Premier League
Tomorrow night, Manchester United host Manchester City in one of the Premier League’s biggest games, but off the pitch the clash between BT and Sky over the future of live football on TV is just as intense. The two broadcasting giants have been entrenched in talks for months, but are now deadlocked.
The 2013-14 season does not kick off until August, but with just weeks to go before Pay-TV prices are set and advertising campaigns start, the two media giants cannot agree how to complete their carve-up of TV rights. And to add to the tension, they are squaring up for a battle in TV sport’s lucrative pubs and clubs market.
The face-off follows last summer’s auction of TV rights, which saw Sky pitted against BT for the first time. But in the tangled world of broadcasting, the game is far from over.
But the battle between the broadcasters is not restricted to homes. The two are also facing off in Britain’s pubs and bars, a highly profitable market for football viewing.
Here, Sky is under no obligation to share its matches with BT and they are squaring up for a more traditional battle.
As well as football, BT is hoping its other sports will draw customers. It has spent about £152?million acquiring the rights to rugby matches, women’s tennis and overseas football games. BT has recruited former Sky executive Bruce Cuthbert to head its marketing drive in this sector.
Cuthbert said: ‘There are about 50,000 pubs in Britain, about half show free-to-air sport of some kind like Champions League or Europa Cup football, or rugby. About 20 per cent don’t show any kind of sport. We can offer them something that is more than free-to-air, but not the whole hog in terms of football.’ Pubs and clubs will still need a satellite dish and a Sky box to take BT’s service since its sport offering for pubs is via the Sky platform.
Mail on Sunday

Student leaders declare war on ‘lad culture’
Pub crawls or parties with themes such as “rappers and slappers” or “geeks and sluts” could be banned from universities in an attempt to stamp out a growing “lad culture”.
Universities, student unions and even promotional companies that work with them must embrace a “zero tolerance” approach to get rid of such behaviour, student leaders say.
A motion at the annual conference of the National Union of Students, which takes place next week in Sheffield, is expected to herald a clampdown on sexist socialising habits. Another target is the behaviour of university sports teams, whose members frequently meet after matches in campus bars. Rugby, football and other sports players who catcall or grope women students or undress themselves should be ejected and face disciplinary proceedings, union members say.
Last month the NUS published research indicating that a culture of misogyny, linked to heavy drinking and “pack culture” among male students, was widespread on many campuses. The motion, which is likely to be carried by the NUS conference on Tuesday, talks of a “horrific normalisation of sexist attitudes and sexual pressure”. It calls for a zero-tolerance approach and says that promotional companies organising student events should be vetted to make sure they comply with this. “The process will involve making sure that the company in question is non-discriminative towards women and that their promotional material does not promote lad culture,” the motion says. “Companies will also make sure that the events that they promote will be a safe space for women, therefore abiding by zero tolerance as a campaign.”
The Times

Good Pub Guide for the 1500s tells you how to binge drink
Binge drinking, super strength alcohol, hangover cures and attempts to ban smoking indoors - they might sound like modern preoccupations but in fact they were the issues provoking debate in the sixteenth century.
They are among topics which emerge in a new “good pub guide” for the Elizabethan period, which has been produced by researchers from a trawl of historical records at the British Library.
The study features a guide to around 250 actual hostelries from around the country, describing them as they were at the end of the sixteenth century.
Some of them still survive - such as The George, in Norton St Philip, near Bath - but others - such as The White Horse, in Ipswich, which is now a coffee shop - have disappeared.
As well as providing details for the specific establishments, the researchers James Moore and Paul Nero, have also produced an accompanying guide to pub culture of the day, including the food, drink and entertainment on offer, as well as a glossary of useful terms from the time.
Mr Moore said: “It was a golden age for the pub, with around 20,000 pubs for four million inhabitants - one pub per 200 people - compared with about 50,000 for 62 million now - about one for every 1,200. “Much has gone unchanged over the years. Binge drinking happened on a regular basis, pubs were dens of crime where stolen goods changed hands. But they also served the same basic purpose, giving people a place to escape from the daily grind.”
Pubs from the period were split into three distinct categories, whose clientele were drawn from different levels of society. By far the most numerous, and also the lowest on the social scale, was the alehouse. They were banned from selling wine and served beer from jugs into an earthenware or wooden pot -typically to hold a pint or two. Food was usually limited to buns doused in ale or perhaps a savoury or sweet pie.
Taverns were the more upmarket, where drink was more likely to be served in wooden or pewter tankards, often fitted with a lid, while the most exclusive were the inns, which grew in number as a result of the growth of the merchant class.
Food was also more appetising and, especially in London, could be quite exotic, with oysters, anchovies, roast capon, pigeon, venison, black pudding, conger eel and even strawberries available.
In an inn thy food was usually served on wooden platters, with the pudding often served on the reverse.
Daily Telegraph

Historic Nunhead pub revived as community co-operative
Elvis Costello, Ian Dury and Joe Strummer have played on its stage, but last year the Ivy House in Nunhead, south-east London, was destined to be turned into flats.
Now, thanks to the efforts of a group of local residents, it is on the way to being re-opened as London’s first community pub, owned and run by shareholders.
The campaign to save the Ivy House began last April after the tenant landlord was given five days’ notice to quit. But a group of locals, who met in the pub while having a farewell drink, formed a plan to save their treasured boozer. They set up a formidable team including a real-estate litigation lawyer, a conservation adviser and a town planner.
BBC News

Up in Arms over the Muddy Duck
Residents in a village near Bath are fighting to save the historic name of their local pub after it was changed to the “tacky” title of The Muddy Duck by a new owner. A group of campaigners in Monkton Farleigh have started a petition to stop the Kings Arms being re-named. Matthew Midlane, vice-chairman of the parish council, said: “I deeply regret the decision made by the leaseholder of the Kings Arms to rename this ancient, historic pub, which is well known both locally and in the wider area. A pub should be at the heart of the community and it is a pity the leaseholders risk alienating those who have supported it over the years.”
But Joe Holder, general manager of the pub, has refused to change the new name. He said: “We are not changing the name to aggravate or wind anyone up. We want to make a new start and move on from the past. There are concerns there is a lot of history in the Kings Arms but we are not erasing history. We are starting a new chapter.” The pub has been closed for four weeks and aims to reopen on Tuesday.
Daily Telegraph

River Cottage school
Celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is to launch a government-funded cookery school for teenagers. Forty apprentices will train with his River Cottage empire. Hugh, 48, said: “If we can inspire and inform the up-and-coming chefs of the UK and beyond they in turn can delight thousands, maybe millions of diners all over the world.”
Sunday Express

Profits take a wrong turn, but drivers love five-star service station
It has been praised by Prince Charles and became the first motorway services area to be awarded five-star status by Visit England, thanks to its home-cooked food and beautiful surroundings.
But Westmorland Ltd, the family business behind Tebay services on the M6 in the Lake District and the nearby Westmorland hotel, has not managed to escape the effects of the downturn.
Latest figures show turnover for the year to July 2012 was steady at £46.7m, but profits halved from £1.6m to £857,000.
John Dunning, who runs the business with his wife Barbara and daughter Sarah, said he was ‘very pleased’ with the performance given the economic environment. He added that the company was on the verge of starting work on Britain’s newest motorway services, on the M5 in Gloucestershire.
Mail on Sunday

Noma co-founder cooks up new scheme in Bolivia
Man behind restaurant voted world’s best opens Gustu in La Paz to spotlight unique cuisine of South America’s poorest country. From the world’s highest navigable lake to a salt flat which can be seen from space, Bolivia has more than its fair share of natural wonders to attract tourists.
But few visitors are drawn to Bolivia for its food. In fact, as Latin American countries go, it’s near the bottom of the list for gastronomes.
That could be about to change. Claus Meyer, the Danish co-founder of Noma - three times voted the best restaurant in the world - is opening his second eatery in Bolivia’s de facto capital, La Paz. Gustu will champion the little-known cuisine of South America’s poorest nation, blending Meyer’s avant-garde cooking methods with local ingredients including llama steak and giant runner beans.
The project aims to create more than just a destination for globetrotting foodies: the $1.4m restaurant includes a cookery school to train a new generation of young chefs and restaurant professionals from poor backgrounds, and all the earnings will be ploughed into a non-profit foundation.
The Guardian

A pizza a day keeps the triple dip at bay
Fast food is among the bright spots that may secure growth. March wasn’t all bad for British companies, despite the freezing weather. Temperatures may have plunged outside, but inside, families were tucking in to Domino’s hotdog-stuffed pizza, helping the delivery chain lift sales by 6.6% in the first three months of the year.
Snow hampered its moped deliveries early in the quarter, but it was able to offset this by offering two-for-one deals to cash-strapped customers and encouraging them to order online. “Domino’s continues to show there are still significant opportunities in our core UK and Irish markets,” said Lance Batchelor, chief executive, last week. The chain’s success shows some companies, while not exactly powering ahead, are managing to hold their own in a tough environment.
Sunday Times

Homely dishes get publishers sizzling
A couple who run a tiny Middle Eastern restaurant in London are at the centre of a bidding war over their unpublished cookbook that is expected to win them a £250,000 deal. Seven leading publishers are understood to have offered six-figure sums to secure the rights to the book, which is packed with recipes for simple Middle Eastern dishes. Bloomsbury, which published the Harry Potter books, is said to be in the running.
The excitement over the cookbook, which has also attracted interest from television companies, is remarkable as it is based only on a 3,000-word proposal and the reputation of Honey & Co, the couple’s restaurant, which opened in central London six months ago with just 10 tables and room for 24 diners. Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer, both 34, said they were unlikely literary stars or culinary pin-ups. “We’re very fat,” Srulovich joked, before hastily adding: “My wife is perfect and doesn’t need to lose weight.”
Their appeal has been attributed to homely food that is popular during times of recession. Their cookbook will provide recipes ranging from Lebanese pickles to gundi — Persian chicken dumplings in broth.
Sunday Times

Diageo rejects raising United Spirits bid
Diageo is unlikely to increase its holding in Indian group United Spirits after it opted not to raise the price for its mandatory takeover offer above Rp1,440 a share. The maker of Johnnie Walker whisky and Smirnoff vodka is buying a 27.4 per cent stake in United Spirits, which is controlled by mercurial liquor baron Vijay Mallya, triggering a mandatory offer to shareholders under Indian stock market rules. However, the distilling group is sticking with the Rp1,440 price paid to acquire shares directly from United Breweries. That price represented a 35 per cent premium over the close on September 24, the day before the talks were announced, but is sharply below the Rp1,755 close on the Bombay Stock Exchange on Friday.
FT Weekend

Britain running out of wheat
The dismal harvests will increase the country’s reliance on the secretive trading firms which dominate the international grain market. Britain will be forced to become a net importer of wheat for the first time in a decade this year, after the recent bitter weather devastated crops. A disastrous 12-month cycle of poor weather has ruined harvests across the UK, costing farmers an estimated £500m, the chief economist of the National Farmers Union (NFU) warned.
The conditions mean Britain - traditionally a significant net exporter of wheat - will have to boost imports by more than a million tonnes. While the effect on the price of a loaf of bread is expected to be minimal, the dismal harvests will increase the country’s reliance on the secretive trading firms which dominate the international grain market.
The crop damage deals a further blow to Britain’s beleaguered farming industry, which is already reeling from a spate of recent livestock deaths due to the cold weather. To make matters worse, the weather has made planting new crops more difficult and damaged many of the seeds that have been sown in recent weeks.
The Independent

Potatoes in short supply as big freeze hits crops
The price of potatoes has risen by half, and more French varieties will go on sale in Britain after the big freeze hit harvests. The rain, snow and ice this year has led to the lowest yielding and poorest quality crops since the drought of 1976.
One of the wettest winters and coldest springs on record has meant that crops of many vegetables are in short supply, and imports are replacing a lot of products normally home grown.
The Potato Council has warned that stocks are down by almost 20% on last year because of the heavy rainfall. Jersey Royals are likely to be at least a month late ¬because planting in January was delayed by the extreme weather.
A 2.5kg (5½lb) bag of white potatoes has gone up by an average of 43%, from £1.35 this time last year to £1.93, and is likely to rise even further as growers suffer further setbacks from the weather.
Customers have also been told to expect higher prices on carrots, peas and tomatoes, because much of the planned crop was not planted or is being stunted by the lack of light.
Vegetables such as broccoli and peas, and bulbs such as onions are expected to go up by at least 15p a lb, say experts, while seasonal British fruit will be at least 6% dearer than last year.
Sunday Telegraph

Belfry owner eyes David Lloyd
The American owner of the Belfry golf resort is considering a bid for David Lloyd Leisure. KSL Capital Partners, which recently snapped up the Malmaison and Hotel du Vin chains, is one of several buyout firms weighing up offers for the fitness clubs operator, which is valued at about £900m. Blackstone, the US investment house, may also submit a bid. David Lloyd, which runs more than 80 clubs in Britain, is controlled by London & Regional, the property company, and Caird Capital, the private equity firm. UBS, the investment bank, is advising.
David Lloyd is said to be trading well. Its resilience, despite the economic gloom, is likely to appeal to prospective bidders. The chain, which has begun opening high street fitness studios, plans at least 20 more of its larger clubs.
Sunday Times

Boutique bowling proved right up my alley
Mark von Westenholz set up All Star Lanes in Holborn, on the edge of the City, offering customers an evening of tenpin bowling, dinner and cocktails. Since then, he has opened three more sites in the capital and one in Manchester. The firm of 300 staff, based in Shoreditch, east London, made sales of £9m in 2011 and profits of £1.9m. It expects revenues of £16.2m for last year, with profits of £1.6m. All Star Lanes in Holborn opened in 2006 after a £1.5m venue revamp. As well as two bowling lanes, the venue has a bar, restaurant, karaoke space and room for private hire. “It was a hit. People loved the quirky idea of spending the evening at a bowling alley,” said von Westenholz.
Less than a year later, he set up a second venue, in Bayswater, west London, followed by a third in Brick Lane, east London, in September 2008. This venue now brings in £4m sales a year.
Strangely, says von Westenholz, the business has benefited from the recession. With 60% of revenue coming from corporate sales (bowling is popular for team-building exercises), budget cuts have meant more companies have turned to affordable fun.
In 2011, a year after Adam Breeden stepped down to pursue his own ventures, von Westenholz opened lanes in Stratford’s Westfield centre in east London. “We piggy-backed on its success.”
Last month, All Star Lanes opened in Manchester where, von Westenholz says, sales are growing 15% a week. “We weren’t sure the model would work there. But you don’t know until you try.”
Further fundraising from investors, who have put forward £6m since the first alleys opened, meant that von Westenholz, 40, has parted with more of his business. He now owns about 12% and has personally invested £600,000 in the firm.

Facebook charges to reach stars
Facebook has quietly started charging British users as much as £10 to send a message to celebrities and other people outside their circle of friends on the social networking site. The company is testing a sliding scale of fees based on how popular it perceives an individual to be. On Friday users seeking to contact those in the highest tier, which includes Tom Daley, the teenage diver, and, perhaps more surprisingly, Michael Rosen, the former children’s laureate, faced paying £10.68.
Sunday Times

Peer-to-peer lender plans to corner SME market
Peer-to-peer lender Funding Circle is growing so fast that it has ¬ambitious plans to provide up to 20% of all SME funding within five to 10 years. This would equate to a monthly total of £1.4bn. Funding Circle is tripling the amount of money it lends every year as public confidence in mainstream banks wanes. Some £10m of the £90m total it has lent since 2010 was in the past 30 days.
Peer-to-peer lenders match investors and businesses on the basis of ¬desired returns weighed against risk. Chief executive and co-founder Samir Desai said: “We are a good way to get better returns on savings. We offer a credible alternative to banks.” The Government provides 20% of the money lent by Funding Circle via its Business Finance Partnership. The firm has lent to retailers, restaurants and even a company that wanted to buy cranes. The most a business can borrow is £1m while the minimum investment is £20. A strong portfolio of companies can be built up with just £2,000, according to Desai.
Sunday Express

And finally…
A horse walks into a bar
Auroras Encore celebrated winning the Grand National at his local pub near his stables in Bingley.
The 66-1 shot was having a well-earned rest at trainer Sue Smith’s yard, before popping down to the Dick Hudsons pub in Bingley Moor to toast his success with locals.
Mail on Sunday

How ‘fat-nav’ guides us to more calories
Overweight people have an in-built ‘fat-nav’ that helps them remember where high-calorie food is, a study suggests. The discovery comes after psychologists at the University of Aberdeen asked 41 students to imagine they were going to a food fair. They were then shown images of fruit and vegetables and high-calorie snacks, and briefly shown the location of stalls selling them.
In tests, those who were better at remembering where to buy fatty snacks were more likely to have a higher body mass index - which compares height with weight.
Daily Mail

Elf ‘n’ safety have got it ‘inn’ for us
It basks in the glory of being Sir Francis Drake’s local, parts of it proudly hewn from the spoils of the Spanish Armada he helped to defeat. But even though the Minerva Inn in Plymouth went on to survive centuries of redevelopment around it - and later escape Hitler’s bombs - the ancient hostelry may finally have encountered an enemy it cannot defeat.
Safety officials have decided the 16th century building’s timber beams and woodwork pose a fire risk, and must be covered in flame retardant paint. An enforcement order means centuries of history could, quite literally, be glossed over. The pub’s owners have also been told to paint a ceiling that bears years of hand-written messages from modern day visitors, celebrities, and servicemen who signed their name before going off to war - some never to return.
Daily Mail