Pub operators are power mad, say MPs

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The Independent Online

Some of Britain's pub operators were branded "power mad" yesterday by a group of MPs investigating the rents and beer prices they charge their tenants.

Some of Britain's pub operators were branded "power mad" yesterday by a group of MPs investigating the rents and beer prices they charge their tenants.

MPs on the Trade and Industry Select Committee are concerned that tenants are forced to pay higher prices for their beer supplies from pub companies, or "pubcos", and are also stung with unreasonable property rents.

"You guys are power mad - you want a piece of beer sales, one-armed bandit sales, crisp sales," Martin O'Neill, the chairman of the committee, said. Nigel Evans said many tenants were kept in a "straitjacket" by their pubcos.

Enterprise Inns, Punch Taverns and Wolverhampton & Dudley, three of the largest pubcos, defended their business, saying they provided tenants with a low-cost way of running a pub and the benefit of their buying power. Ted Tuppen, the chief executive of Enterprise Inns, said it was in the pubcos' interests to look after their tenants. "Our properties are just empty buildings until we get the right tenants in," Mr Tuppen said. He said the company worked very hard to support struggling tenants.

But many of the MPs think pubcos should become either property companies that charge open market rents, or become beer wholesalers with open market prices. Mr Tuppen said this would mean ruin for many pubs.

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