New rules are being put in place to ensure pub landlords are treated more fairly by large companies.
The government’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has revealed a code of conduct will be drawn up which corporations owning local pubs have to abide by.
This will be overseen by an independent adjudicator so tenants don’t end up worse off financially than those operating free houses.
A tenant is tied on many of its drinks, meaning they can only sell what a pub company has in stock and at a certain price, and can’t buy them from elsewhere.
Meanwhile free houses – which are owned by the people who run them – have complete flexibility on what they sell.
The government says the changes will help to ‘redress the imbalance’ in the relationship with landlords and the big firms.
Barry Kewell landlord of The Northcote Hotel in Southsea and chairman of Albert Road Pub Watch welcomed the changes. He said: ‘Any change is welcome as far as we are concerned. If I was free of tie on beers then the prices I sell them at would be 15p to 16p cheaper, because I would be able to shop around to get the best deal.’
Tenants who are tied to a pub company with 500 or more pubs in its stock will benefit from an additional enhanced code. It will ensure pubs can request an assessment of their rent and have it compared to a free-of-beer-tie deal.
The assessments will aim to show publicans whether they are worse off than others.
Paul Saynor, landlord of The Rose in June, in Copnor, said: ‘A reform was definitely needed and certainly reducing the price of the beer they give us would be a step forward.
‘But it must not be to the detriment of the rent.’
Neil Eames, development manager for the Federation of Small Businesses’ Wessex Region, said: ‘It is important for the thousands of tied publicans that FSB surveyed and who overwhelmingly back reforms of this kind.
‘The FSB has campaigned long and hard for a tough code and independent adjudicator with enough power to make a real difference for publicans right across the country.
But FSB says more still needs to be done such as giving pubs the option of switching to a free of tie contract and the right to stock guest beers.
Martyn Constable, member of the local branch of the Campaign for Real Ale, said: ‘What a lot of tenants wanted was a free of tie option and having the choice to buy beer elsewhere, because pub companies charge over the price for it,’ he said.