Tied pubs putting licensees over a barrel

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Publicans from all over the country are holding a conference in London today in an attempt to head off what they claim is a serious threat to thousands of Britain's pubs.

They will lobby MPs and brewers over restrictions on tied houses which are driving their costs up and many of their colleagues, like David and Joan Cassidy (pictured, right) - who run the Market Street Tavern in Radcliffe, near Manchester - to the brink of disaster.

The Federation of Small Businesses is hosting the conference at Church House in Westminster, central London, to highlight the difficulties encountered since the big eight brewers were ordered by the Monopolies Commission to sell off 11,000 pubs in 1990.

The federation says that the tenants of those tied pubs have to pay high rents and must buy beer from their brewers at full list price, whereas free houses get discounts of up to 25 per cent.

"The rent and beer prices are too high," said Mr Cassidy. "We owe our brewery [Matthew Brown] pounds 5,000 and we've only been here nine months."