Hexham land lady blames pub chain for ending a dream

The former boss of the Coach and Horses says artificially high alcohol prices forced her out

Moya and Keith Burn from Seghill who lost a small fortune on a pub they used to run
Moya and Keith Burn from Seghill who lost a small fortune on a pub they used to run

A couple who had to give up their pub have backed plans to allow publicans to buy booze on the open market instead of being tied into bad deals with giant chains.

Moya and Keith Burn had to leave the Coach and Horses in Hexham, Northumberland, blaming a lack of support from the company they leased from.

They said they could not afford to carry on after they were forced to buy alcohol from the chain at high prices instead of finding their own suppliers.

Last week there was a call in the House of Commons to ban large pub companies from forcing landlords into the deals.

An amendment to the Small Business Bill was approved after MPs said landlords were being charged excessive prices.

Moya said: “We had the Coach and Horses from 2003 to 2004 on a rental lease.

“We paid £15,000 to Pubmaster, now known as Punch Taverns, to buy the fixtures and fittings on the agreement that if we gave up the pub we would get that money back providing there was no substantial damage.

“We were tied into buying all our beer, wines and spirits from them at what we later found out was a much higher price than if we bought direct from the wholesaler.

“To cut a long story short we only lasted a few years before deciding enough was enough.

“We were working a huge amount of hours and only managing to make ends meet.

“To cap it all Pubmaster did not pay us back a penny of the original £15,000 we invested claiming we had let the fixtures and fittings fall into disrepair.”

She said the practice of some chains forcing publicans to buy from them was one of the reasons for the continued decline of pubs.

She said: “They are making a fortune out of us poor suckers.

“We are convinced this is the reason for all the pub closures recently.

“If pub chains were monitored on their business behaviour and the price they charge landlords for their beer I’m sure the trade wouldn’t be in the state it is in today.

“Beer prices for the customer would be cheaper and this would encourage more people to frequent their local and so save the industry.

“We want this practice to be revealed so that future prospective pub owners will not fall into the same trap.”

Moya, of Seghill, Northumberland, also ran the Whip and Saddle in the Scottish Borders town of Duns which she and Keith also gave up in 2004.

The Journal asked Punch Taverns for a comment.

A spokesman said: “The situation relates to an incident over a decade ago, back when we were operating under a different name, we are in no position to comment on the matter.”

Blaydon’s Dave Anderson was one of the MPs who backed the plea to change the rules.

He said: “This would cut beer prices to competitive levels, benefit over 10,000 pubs, help pub tenants make a living, help keep pubs open and help keep the cost of a pint affordable to customers.”

The cross-party amendment will stop large pub companies forcing up beer prices charged to pub tenants to unacceptable levels.

It would allow tenants tied to the large pub companies, defined as more than 500 pubs, to opt for a rental only deal allowing them to buy beer on the open market at prices up to 70% below what pub companies currently force them to pay.”

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