But “going free” is a double-edged sword. You have cut your ties from the brewery or pub company, but that means you no longer have anyone looking over your shoulder to keep you on the path and tell you when you’re going wrong, and you no longer have any outside marketing support. You are truly on your own. For a keen, competent licensee, that should be seen as a challenge, but for some it can lead to complacency and slipping standards.
It is probably fair to say that, over my drinking career, many of the very best pubs I have visited have been genuine free houses, but so have some of the very worst.
One particular bugbear of mine is that, freed from any higher oversight, free trade pubs can all too easily end up with a plethora of incongruous, home-made signs both inside and out, which puts across a sloppy, unprofessional image.
Also, unless you are consciously going down the “alehouse” route, it is important to have a permanent real ale of ordinary bitter strength that is what many of your regular customers drink.