They refused to award prizes in two categories of the English Heritage/ Campaign for Real Ale Pub Design competition, Conservation and New-Build, saying standards were so low that none of the pubs warranted the accolade. Steven Parissien wrote in the judges' report: "A depressingly large proportion of the entries were bedecked with over-familiar `heritage' paraphernalia - Disneyesque travesties straight out of the catalogue rather than the back of the attic."
Dismissing them as "grotesque parodies" of pubs from the 1890s, he said most Victorian interiors were as "authentic as Dick Van Dyke's cockney accent".
Much of the pounds 10m spent on revamping pubs in 1997 appeared to have been wasted on "heavy-handed" alterations to keep up with the latest marketing theme rather than celebrating the importance of individual buildings.
It is the first time in the competition's 10 year history that a winner has not been found for the Conservation award, although the New Build prize has been given out only once.
The judges said it was up to pub owners, managers and architects to raise standards, but also called on local authority planners to exercise greater control over renovations. However, it was not all bad news for drinkers. The Bread and Roses, Clapham, south London, run by the Workers Beer Company, won the Best Refurbishment Award for its transformation from a rundown community pub into a hostelry "with attitude" with no sign of "plagiarism, fakes and boring repetition".
The Conversion to Pub Use award went to Frazer's Bar in Edinburgh, housed in the former offices of the Royal Bank of Scotland, described as having an "art deco yet unmistakably contemporary feel".
Judges said there was a trend towards converting banks to pubs or restaurants, as a number of banking chains sold off town-centre premises.