The introduction of a mandatory guest beer option for pub tenants could be “disastrous” and “endanger the viability” of mid-sized brewers while reducing choice behind the bar, JW Lees has told the Government.

The Manchester-based brewer and pub operator has warned of the impact of such a move in its response to the consultation on the statutory code. “This is a dangerous area,” the firm said.

“The introduction of guest beers for cask beer and draught cider came in following the 1989 MMC [Monopolies and Mergers Commission] report and the widening of this closure could be disastrous for brewers, tenants and the consumer.

“Look at continental Europe where frequently there is often only one beer on the bar and no choice and the domination of local markets by international brewers.”

JW Lees pointed out that progressive beer duty already puts it at a disadvantage and a mandatory guest beer option “would endanger the viability of brewers like JW Lees”.

“Please do not be fooled that guest beers are a good thing,” the company continued. “People expect to be able to buy JW Lees beers in JW Lees pubs and we pride ourselves on the quality of our beers.

“Think of it another way - can you imagine being able to buy a Big Mac in a Burger King restaurant? That would be ridiculous.”

JW Lees said the current process from the Government “feels like a sledgehammer is being used to crack a nut”. It also said it was “like shooting fish”.

The company added: “Self-regulation seems to be starting to work in the pub industry but there have been so many challenges in the last few years that we feel that the government should wait to see whether this new way is working rather than pandering to the views of parties with long-held vested interests who are pressing for legislation.”

JW Lees said industry associations are “creaking owing to the continued pressure of consultations and potential legislation and that organisations such as the BII are on the brink of not being financially viable as a result of the pressure put on them by government”.

“Every time there is a consultation there is less enthusiasm to engage with government.”