I'm also a beer tie sceptic. If you read this blog regularly you will have already worked that out. My view for the best part of three decades has been that tied pubs are in many ways inferior and my view on that is unlikely to change. Of course, the beer tie has been an integral part of how the British pub industry has worked for over 100 years or more, so to change it might well accelerate the changes in the whole of the British pub scene. Personally, I'm not convinced that would be a bad thing. The days of the "community pub" may well be numbered, the back street boozer has had it's day, out of those that are left a greater proportion, based on industry statistics2, are tied to some brewery or PubCo.
Recently CAMRA's Mike Benner claimed that European Law would prevent the abolition of the tie. Now, I remembered something in the back of my mind about there being an exemption in place that prevented the Treaty of Rome affecting our beer tie system. I'm no expert on how this all works, but it seems to me that perhaps the first step is simply to permit this piece of European legislation to work.
Although I don't like the tie, I would have to admit that a complete abolition would be a crazy idea. After all, where would I stand as a brewpub? We could argue all day, I'm sure, about what precisely we should do about it. There is European legislation which is designed to prevent undesirable monopolization of various markets without unduly affecting free market enterprise. Surely we just need to allow that to work? Perhaps this solution might pacify my two key scepticisms.
Meanwhile, my mischievous friend Jeff Pickthall has created a survey. He is interested in the correlation between political persuasion and Real Ale. Whilst I think there is an element of paranoia on Jeff's part I also think there is a validity to the question. There does seem to me to be a high number of CAMRA officials who are also union activists. Besides, just because you are paranoid, doesn't mean they are not out to get you and I know Jeff is not alone in his views. I think it does have some relevance to the beer tie.
Anyway, do the survey, I think it's a laugh. I like the political compass that is used. Political opinion is far more complicated than simple left and right. I don't think the political compass is complex enough to really describe peoples political views, but it's better than a simple one dimensional measure. For the survey to be meaningful Jeff will need input from as many people as possible. Also, it needs as broad a selection of people as possible. If you don't want to do it because of some belief you have then you might just be the missing bit of data. It does allow the use of pseudonyms, so he'll never know who you are if you don't want him to.
1.....or is that tears?
2Source: The Community Pub Report, October 2008, page8 which shows an increase in the proportion of tenanted/leased pubs over freehold.