Pubs pile on the pressure by offering cash alongside drinks

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The Independent Online

The signs reading "My bank manager does not sell beer. So don't ask me to cash cheques" are about to vanish from thousands of pubs after the row over cash-machine charges.

The signs reading "My bank manager does not sell beer. So don't ask me to cash cheques" are about to vanish from thousands of pubs after the row over cash-machine charges.

Scottish & Newcastle, the biggest UK pubs operator, said yesterday that pub goers who object to plans by the big banks to charge a pound for cash withdrawals should go to their local instead.

S&N, which operates 2,654 pubs under the Chef and Brewer, Bar 38 and Rat & Parrot banners, said customers spending £2 or more will be able to get cash back free in 80 per cent of its pubs. These include country pubs, often miles from a bank.

Jeremy Blood, retail strategy director at S&N, said: "The convenience of the service has been very popular with customers, with people particularly appreciating access to their money in the evenings after other retailers offering a cash-back service have closed." He said S&N had offered the service in 500 of its pubs since 1998, and some already give out thousands of pounds a week.

Nationwide Building Society, which has championed free banking, said yesterday that it believed S&N's move was part of a trend. Alan Oliver, Nationwide spokesman, said: "Surcharging has the potential to change fundamentally the way people take out their cash."

Tesco, the supermarket chain, has threatened to boot Barclays Bank's machines out of its forecourts and offer the space to banks that do not intend to charge customers for cash withdrawals. Supermarkets already offer most customers the chance to withdraw cash free of charge from their tills when they buy groceries.

Not all pub landlords are quite so public spirited. JD Wetherspoon, which operates spit-and-sawdust pubs, has been installing cash machines in its pubs and charging £1 a time for withdrawals.

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