Sunday 3 November 2013

An unpalatable truth

This post is to a large extent a rehash of others I have made in the past. Some people aren’t going to like it, but it needs to be said.

I can well understand how people who have suffered at the hands of the pub companies feel very aggrieved about it, and are thus motivated to campaign against the companies’ policies. But, as with single-issue campaigners of all kinds, it is all too easy to allow it to expand into an over-arching narrative that explains everything. To listen to some of them, you would get the impression that the primary reason for the decline of the pub trade in the past twenty years has been greedy, incompetent pub companies acting in association with rapacious supermarkets and property developers and bungling local authorities. However, this, whether through simple ignorance or a blinkered refusal to confront the facts, completely fails to recognise the wider picture.

In the period since 1979, beer sales in pubs have declined by over 60%, and around a third of the pubs in the country have closed. There has been a marked long-term secular decline in the demand for pubs which goes far beyond the specifics of individual businesses. Obviously, in an overall declining market, it will tend to be the better-run pubs that survive, and the worse-run ones that go to the wall, but the underlying reason for pubs closing en masse is not that they have been sold off in large number for alternative use despite being profitable, nor that they have been allowed to become tatty, unwelcoming, badly-managed dumps. Indeed, the average pub now is much better run and more welcoming that it was in 1979.

Are those who are mainly laying it at the door of the pubcos really denying there’s been much impact from the decline of heavy industry, inner-city depopulation, influx of people from cultures with no pubgoing tradition, changing gender roles, discouragement of lunchtime drinking at work, denormalisation of drink-driving within the legal limit or the smoking ban?

I asked the question here what difference it would may to the overall pub market if the average pub was run as well as the best. The conclusion was that overall trade would be unlikely to increase by more than a few percentage points. To suggest that pubs could have held on to most of the lost trade by being run differently is frankly ludicrous. It’s on a par with arguing that the collapse of transatlantic passenger shipping in the 1960s was mainly due to badly-run shipping lines. In mature markets, variations in the quality of what is on offer play a relatively minor role in determining the overall level of demand. I regularly visit a number of well-run, appealing family brewery tied houses that have certainly not been allowed to decay and can demonstrate long-term continuity in management and general offer. But they have haemorrhaged trade too, just as surely as the most inconsistently-run pubco outlet, even if not quite to the same degree.

Equally, while I’m sure there have been cases of profitable pubs being sold off for redevelopment as flats or convenience stores, there are few areas of the country where there aren’t plenty of recently-closed pubs in all kinds of locations that would be available on a freehold basis to anyone wanting an entry into the trade. There must be at least half a dozen in central Stockport alone. The fact that would-be pub entrepreneurs haven’t snapped these sites up suggests that they don’t see a potential market there, and those who whine that “pubs only close because they’re shit” always seem strangely reluctant to put their money where their mouth is. While matters may be different in some parts of inner London subject to intense development pressures, I’m not aware of a single pub around here sold for conversion to alternative use that previously could have been said to be thriving.

I do not for a minute seek to defend the policies of the pubcos, but they are essentially a desperate reaction to declining demand, not a cause. The pubcos borrowed up to the hilt to bet the farm on a projected outcome that just didn’t happen, and are now counting the cost. The current “pub crisis” is essentially a crisis of demand, not supply. All the planning controls and development restrictions in the world won’t save a single pub if the underlying demand isn’t there in the first place. While it may be possible to turn round a failing, badly-run pub, for the most part that will simply be at the expense of others appealing to the same population of potential customers. It does little or nothing to affect the overall size of the market. For plenty of closed pubs, it is possible to come up with a narrative that might have allowed it to do better. For the overall market, it is much more difficult, unless you’re suggesting rewinding thirty years of social and economic change.

If you fail to understand the true nature of the problem, whether through ignorance or choice, you are never going to come up with a solution. Indeed it does the pub trade as a whole a disservice for people to insist on peddling a narrative for its decline which at best is exaggerated and at worst utterly delusional. Quite frankly, some of the more strident anti-pubco campaigners end up being simply anti-pub.

Some have accused me of not really supporting pubs, but any lasting acquaintance with this blog will disabuse you of that notion. But I acknowledge that social changes have made huge swathes of pubs unviable, regrettable as it may be in many cases, and don’t go about flogging dead horses. You can still be a railway enthusiast while admitting there isn’t really a case for reopening the Cleobury Mortimer branch. I recognise that every pub is a business too, which some seem not to, and they cannot be kept alive by fossilising the trading patterns of the past through the planning system. Nor is it desirable to try to help business sectors you feel sentimental about by artificially skewing the market in their favour – all that will do is postpone the evil day and very likely in the end result in a worse outcome.


  1. Some utter uninformed nonsense there Sir, and I'm a freeholder with no axe to grind either way (in fact it would benefit freeholders for pubco's to sell of their pubs for development).

    I could pick the piece to bits one point at a time but am rather busy right now with opening in a few minutes.

    May be tomorrow when i have some spare time!

  2. Pubco's over rent pubs AND charge tenants double the open market price for supplies which the pubco's don't even handle...

    This puts tied leases at a disadvantage over any free of tie competition and means they have to work harder to keep ahead, no matter how good they are as businesses.


    You can't change facts.

    All the other factors affecting all other businesses during a recession and times of changing social habits come into play too. But the bottom line is pubco's have been quietly asset stripping on a massive scale while people like you point out they aren't the cause of the disease in the UK pub sector.

    They are the epicentre of the storm.

  3. I suspect the pubcos always were at base motivated during the property boom by perceived opportunities for asset-stripping, conversion of pubs to more profitable uses, residential/offices/retail etc. Too bad they've largely missed the boat and the financial tide's gone out.
    Otherwise agree with much of Mudgie's argument, but I suspect he's over-influenced by the fact of living in a relatively depressed part of the country. Things aren't necessarily as bad elsewhere.

  4. We recently stayed in a very nice , comfortable, West Country pub in a village which was due for another forty houses. The landlord and his wife served good food but were at their wits' end.

    They reckoned thir trade had dropped because of cheap supermarket beer. They had done well for a few years but were feeling the pinch and the pub was not viable now. Banks will not extend finance on country pubs, so they could not sell as a going concern.

    The only way they could recoup their investment was selling for development. There was a substantial car. Park and paddock.

    But locals were campaigning on a "Save our pub" ticket - people who had never set foot in the place or ever bought a drink there.

    Knowing something of the ways of local government,
    I felt very sorry for them

  5. Edward Spalton - Not much to go on but maybe the current owners aren't doing what the locals expect of a good local - if they care enough to campaign about its loss why did they not set foot in the pub?

    Is it the last pub in the village?

  6. JMD

    The idea of campaigning to preserve some facility that you never use extends far beyond pubs. People want to preserve the village shop but they do their shopping at Sainsbury. They are passionate about maintaining public transport but always travel by car. They boast about the local football team but actually watch Man U on Sky.

  7. Mark,
    I rather think it was the only pub in the village. I had a walk round the place and did not see another- although there may have been another one down a lane somewhere.

    I thought they might try doing what our own local has done, albeit in a much larger village - have a very cheap daytime special menu. I doubt whether they make much on the food but they generally sell a pint of beer and a coffee. With a fairly large proportion of retired people within walking distance, they gradually built up a good regular trade. My wife and I go most weeks and often see our neighbours there.

  8. Ah but there isn't a solution to the declining pub trade, what will be, will be.

    But if you have an axe to grind, doing something is better than doing nothing, regardless of it's effectiveness.

    Especially, one might say, for a particular 40 year old campaign which by and large won what it set out to do and now flounders to think of something new and relevant to campaign for lest it admit it really is just a beer club offering spoons tokens.

  9. While we can all point to such and such a pub that has been sold into the free trade and now thrives, it is true I think that many pubs have closed simply because they have run out of customers.

    Why that is of course is a moot point. If, say, the rise in beer prices over the past 30 years or so had mirrored inflation rather than outstripped it by a wide margin would there have been such a decline in pub going? I suspect there would have been a decline (ceratinly after the s****** b**) but perhaps at not such a marked rate. Those pubs with keen prices (but are otherwise generally well run - an important caveat I feel) certainly seem to have little problem with bums on seats.

    And - at the end of the day I think some of the activities of some of the pubcos with rents and beer prices have certainly fed into the retail procing structure of much of the trade they control. But then of course not every pubco pub is on its knees so there are some people out there who seem to be able to make the business model work for them.

    While societal, legislative and demographic changes will have certainly played apart, so too has pricing and that can't be entirely divorced from the pubco business model. It's quite a complax picture I think.

    1. Back in 1986, I was paying £1.32 a pint in Portsmouth, in 2012 I was paying £3.00 a pint in South London. If we take inflation into account, that £1.32 pint would have cost £3.28 in 2012. However in 1984, I was only paying 72p, I think in those two years that was probably more noticeable than in the last 28! Where people I think people think beer prices are expensive is that they have risen more sharply more recently (like fuel etc.), but overall, its not that bad.

  10. "I suspect he's over-influenced by the fact of living in a relatively depressed part of the country. Things aren't necessarily as bad elsewhere."

    Well, I do travel around the country and see a similar pattern elsewhere. And much of Stockport isn't actually that depressed - areas like Tameside and Oldham have suffered worse.

  11. Yes, Mudgie, I was going to mention that. I hardly think Stockport and Cheshire can be said to be "relatively depressed". I suspect your anonymous commenter is a souherner of the "it's grim oop north" tendency without actually having set foot here.

    Why is is always the anonymous ones who come out with the silliness? I guess that's why they're anonymous.

  12. "Those pubs with keen prices (but are otherwise generally well run - an important caveat I feel) certainly seem to have little problem with bums on seats."

    Well, I've argued in the past that the pub trade has collectively shot itself in the foot by consistently raising prices above the rate of inflation. In real terms, a pint in a pub is usually dearer than it was thirty years ago. However, it's always a moot point as to whether low prices generate new business or simply move it around. Plenty of the reasons people have stopped going to pubs so much have nothing to do with price.

  13. Basic rule of business is that if demand for your product is falling, you change the product. Perhaps the inability of pubs to react to the changing requirements of the market - over the past 10 years especially - could be at least partly attributed to the inflexible and unresponsive pubco model?

  14. But at the same time as pubs have in real terms become more expensive, many alternative enjoyable ways of spending an evening have become less expensive.

    Though shagging has always been free so long as you take enough care regarding a possible bill in 9 months time. Downton Abbey is less effort and not at all bad if you consume some cheap red plonk prior to it.

  15. "Basic rule of business is that if demand for your product is falling, you change the product."

    Well, a lot of pubs have changed what they offer and become Tesco Expresses ;-)

    But I suspect you are back on your old hobby-horse of suggesting your average working-class estate boozer would thrive if it offered a range of interesting craft ales :p

  16. I'm not suggesting a solution, I'm just saying that to present the fall in demand for pubs as 100% inevitable is overstating the case. You name a factor, I bet there is some way a forward thinking landlord could see a way round it. There are halal pubs in Nottingham that cater the local Muslim population. If you can make a pub viable without selling alcohol, anything is possible.

    The problem with the pubco model is that even if a pubco landlord could see a way round the fall in demand, he has neither the means nor in some cases the motive to act on it.

  17. A lot of valid points here. A lot of the other reasons for decline are conveniently forgotton and the PubCos scapegoated because they're an easy target.

    That said:

    1. Really, really great pubs can, and do, buck the trend of overall decline.
    2. Unreasonable PubCo policies almost inevitably make it harder for the licensee to make their pub really, really great.

    This sort of secondary effect cannot be discounted given the high % of pubs owned by the PubCos. We can only speculate as to what the market might look like without them, but I suspect that overall we'd be losing pubs less quickly, and that overall pubs would be better quality and better value.

  18. This data (from 2012) does suggest that Cheshire and Lancashire (especially the latter) saw relatively more pub closures in that year than many other parts of the country, and I did find myself wondering the other day if that might help to explain the disconnect between your view, Mudgie, and our more optimistic position.

    (NOTES: The number of lost pubs for London looks high, too, but -43 could probably go without being noticed in such a large and populous city; and I should also add that we're not totally convinced by CGA strategy's methodology, even after having it explained to us in correspondence.)

  19. I wonder where CGA got their figures from. Do we know? I know that some of the pub closure figures CAMRA uses are based on reports made by local branches and as you might expect some are more assiduous about this than others.

    I don't know how significant this is but if we take East Manchester as an example the pub stock there had almost been wiped out in the past 20 years or so. Interestingly those pubs that do remain are for the most part either free houses or owned by one of the local family brewers.

  20. John -- this is what they told us when we asked. Local intel from both CAMRA and BBPA sources seems to be the gist.

  21. Eye, all interesting. But if you take Mudgie's core argument regarding falling demand and accept supply side measures like kyboshing Tesco and relying on corrupt union stooges and retired teachers at the council implementing planning regulations to ensure closed unviable pubs remain boarded up derelict vandalised buildings rather than a convenience stores people will use. Then what measure would increase the average persons propensity to pop down the local?

    On a cold rainy dark winter night. After a long day at work. A bit of crap telly & glass of cheap plonk is by and large a relaxing way of waiting for bedtime. A hot chocolate is as nice as the cheap plonk, so it's not really about the booze.

    Sure you guys will do it. Not 'cos you want to but out a sense of duty to save the Great British pub. Well, that don't float too many peoples boat. I'm sure you'd all prefer a cosy warm house and big telly. You could afford one to, if you didn't piss all your money away in pubs.

    Why go down the pub? Don't just tell me, mind. Tell the world.

  22. Just for interest

  23. "Why go down the pub? Don't just tell me, mind. Tell the world."

    I can think of about 50 reasons why going to the pub is - or at least could be - more enjoyable than sitting at home watching crap on the telly, but as you say, there is little point repeating it here. The problem is that the message is not getting across to huge swathes of the population.

    Its not my problem, I don't run a pub. But if I did, I would be extremely pissed off at the way pubs have been presented in the media over the past 20 years, particularly to young people.

  24. Eye, I went in a pub once and it was nowt like the Rovers Return. Don't fancy trying another. Especially as it might be like the Queen Vic. The Rovers has some tasty lasses in there that appear in Nuts magazine. The Vic is full of right old boilers.

    But you know, just 1 of your 50 reasons is a start and as for the point of repeating it, it would directly counter the pessimistic view of Mudge. Namely that he knows what's wrong, but doesn't think there is anything to do about it.

    We all have a good bash at telling him he doesn't know what's wrong, but no one ever tells him, okay assuming your right there is something to do about that.

  25. "but doesn't think there is anything to do about it."

    Reversing something that happened on 1 July 2007 might be a start.

    And I did actually come up with a five-point plan for slowing the decline of the pub trade here.

    But, as often said before, the best thing government could do for pubs is to leave them alone.

  26. Sometimes what is done can not be undone, Mudge. You can knock yer squeeze up. Can't unknock 'er up. Yer can sugar yer tea, can't unsugar it.

    Given that all these smokers abandoned boozers to sup at home and are now used to the comfort of their homes, the better and cheaper red vino you find in Tesco and now follow some telly shows and want to see the next episode because like is Brody gonna rescue Carrie? I need to tune in next week. (A Homeland reference)

    Most smokers would shrug there shoulders and say "whatever" to the choice of now paying £3+ for something they were charged £2 for when they were kicked out into the street to stand by the bins.

  27. I find it amazing that so many people commenting on a pub blog, profess not to see any point at all in going to a pub. I may be weird, but I don't necessarily want to spend all my evenings in front of the telly. I'm often seized by a strange desire to put my coat on and get out of the house, and go somewhere I can actually have some interaction with other human beings, even if it's only the barman. Some of the best times of my life have been spent in 'crap pubs'. It was all about being with friends or making friends, and drinking nice draft beer too - I don't have that at home. Nor do I have any live entertainment, food cooked for me, etc etc.

    Of course, like many others, I'm now trying to recreate some of that social life at home - the main reason being the apparently unmentionable 'thing that happened on 1 July 2007'. I agree that there are multiple reasons for the decline of pubs, and on the whole I agree with Curmudgeon that they are more on the side of the erstwhile punters than the publicans or pubcos. But the Smoking Ban (there, I said it!) greatly exacerbated the downward trend (there are graphs which make it blindingly obvious). And one thing that isn't pointed out much, is that the Ban alienated a large cohort of people who were the pub's best customers, very much supporters of the traditional pub, and people who might have helped to keep pubs going. The fact that smokers have become a minority is not the point; no business can afford to alienate even 20% of its best customers, and the proportion of smokers IN PUBS was generally quite a bit higher than that - in some pubs, even a majority - and they brought nonsmoking friends with them too. Curmudgeon is right, the best thing government can do for pubs is leave them alone. And by the way, saying 'what's done can't be undone' is not so clever. Unless I've got it all wrong and there is still Prohibition in the USA, the Berlin Wall is still standing, etc etc . . .

  28. Eye but removing prohibition did not see a return to pre prohibition drinking patterns.

    Much of American drinking is still done in the home and much of it is spirit based. Bars were far more prevalent pre prohibition.

    American tastes remain influenced by the prohibition era. A blended scotch in America tends to have a higher proportion of grain whisky than Europe.

    Only recently has there been a return to drinking ales, which were available in bars pre prohibition, alongside lagers.

    Prohibition was repealed but the market was changed by it.

    Should the smoking ban be lifted, it would not return pubs to 2007.

  29. Yes but the public support for overturning the smoking ban is down into single figures. It simply ain't gonna happen, best to move on and look at other ways of coaxing people out of their living rooms to come and socialise together.

  30. It would be interesting to know how many of those now campaigning against pubcos were vocal opponents of the smoking ban in 2007. Because, if you weren't, and you're now weeping crocodile tears over the fate of pubs, you come across as contemptible hypocrites.

  31. "Yes but the public support for overturning the smoking ban is down into single figures"

    Reference? (and hopefully not to something from ASH)

  32. I did not mean to suggest that time can be reversed. It's true that Prohibition changed American drinking habits. Things do keep changing, and by the same token, even if, say, only 5% of the population want the smoking ban scrapped or amended (which I doubt), there will at some point be a backlash. We are currently at a high (or low?) point in the stigmatisation of smoking, and I've no doubt that when the lies and excesses of the antismoking lobby are more widely recognised, public opinion will shift - though God knows how long it will take.

    No doubt there will be disagreement with that, but here's another way to look at it: even if only 5% of the population want smoking pubs, why should not 5% of pubs allow smoking? 5% is more than the percentage of, for instance, gay people - but we don't ban gay bars. Though we used to . . .

  33. I'll leave this here, Mudgie. ;)

    I have to say that Cookie describes it very well. When the pub industry caved in to the anti-smoking mafia, they said goodbye a large proportion of their former regulars for good. Many whose default night out would once have been the pub then found other things to do and realised that pub life wasn't really that special after all - the illusion was broken for probably a majority of them. I still think an amendment would entice enough back to slow the decline in pub stock or maybe even stabilise it, though. A ventilated smoking room could tempt quite a lot of people to shift venue for the many weekend house gatherings that are as prevalent now as in the 1960s according to the Puddlecotes Snr.

    Oh yea, and Mudgie:

    "a pint in a pub is usually dearer than it was thirty years ago.

    No matter how much anyone points that out, the anti-alcohol crowd will still tell you it is more "affordable". ;)

  34. py0 hasn't come up with any reference (and he didn't when I asked him this in the past), but what he may be referring to is support for a complete repeal of the smoking ban. However, there are plenty of options for relaxation short of that and, as you point out, the official social attitudes survey has never produced a majority in favour of a blanket ban everywhere.

    It would be interesting now to see what level of support the proposition that "pubs and clubs should be allowed to have a separate ventilated smoking room if they choose" would gain.

    "No matter how much anyone points that out, the anti-alcohol crowd will still tell you it is more "affordable". ;)"

    Nah, that's only the slabs of Carling sold by the evil Tesco. Of course, if you believe the useful idiots of Prohibition, double the price of off-trade alcohol and folks will be flooding back in to pubs.

  35. Even back in 2010, a pitiful 13% wanted the ban overturned.

    Why do I need to post links? There are about 100 links from your own website that show the exact same thing.

    To suggest any government in their right mind is going to overturn the ban based on the support on only 1 in 8 people (probably optimistic now) is completely bonkers. It ain't happening, move on.

  36. Sigh...

    But a majority DID NOT support the blanket ban that was imposed. It's not a simple either-or-choice.

    How many times do I have to repeat this?

  37. You'll be lucky to find a pint for £3 in South London nowadays, I think.

  38. It is a simple either - or. People either want the ban completely overturned or they don't. 46% completely support than ban in its entirety, whereas 41% would be willing to see some minor concessions made such as an enclosed smoking shelter, but definitely not a complete reversal. No-one wants to have to stand in a cloud of smog every time they go to the bar, and the numbers back that up time and time again.

  39. Don't get me wrong, lads. I'm put myself in the camp of being in favour of smoking ban reform, if only for reasons of liberty. That don't mean I think it's not a dirty dangerous habit, like.

    But if you want to see what types of pubs would welcome smokers, have a piss up in Hamburg. Not for the beer, it's shite.

    All the smart nice bars don't allow smoking. Lots of utter shit holes do. If you like shit holes, that may not be an issue but a Hamburg shit hole makes an English shit hole look posh. In a Hamburg shit hole you'll be necking pissy Astra lager for 4 euros a pop in the company of retired alcoholic brasses too old for the reeperbahn. Much like Rochdale, then.

  40. Cor blimey Cookie, You make Hamburg sound like My Kinda Town

  41. "All the smart nice bars don't allow smoking. Lots of utter shit holes do."

    Seems like fair dos - both the prissy ponces and the rough-arsed folk are happy.

  42. "It is a simple either - or"

    pyo: Not according to the government when they used to ask the question.

    Since 1996, the ONS asked about smoking bans and split the responses between those who approve of an outright ban, those who favoured some restrictions, and the numbers calling for none at all.

    The figures up to 2005 were:

    2003: 20%, 70% and 8% respectively.
    2004: 31%, 63% and 5%
    2005: 33%, 61% and 5%

    Note that the first figure is those in favour of what has now been inflicted on us. The significant majority didn't want it.

    Nothing has really changed except that the ONS stopped asking the question so as not to embarrass the government post 2007.

    You can put that evidence-free spade away now. ;)

  43. So when I said that the number who favoured completely overturning the ban was in single figures, I was bang on, wasn't I?

    I don't know what you lot are moaning about. I said only single figure percentages favoured completely repealing the law, so it was never going to happen, and what a surprise, I was completely right.

  44. I happen to know Hamburg quite well and there is a kind of partial smoking ban there - I'm not sure exactly how it works but it's based on factors like food served or not, size of venue etc - not on whether a place is a 'shithole' or not. I've been in several smoking bars in Hamburg which were certainly not shitholes. Of course that could be a matter of taste . . . but isn't it nice when as many peoples' tastes can be accomodated as possible?!

  45. I wasn't for a moment suggesting the regional hanseatic authorities had enshrined the criteria of shithole into law in order to differentiate between establishments for the purpose of permitting or restricting smoking.

    Only that an observable difference between the 2 types of establishment was the criteria of shithole.

    But think about it. You've spent a few bob on the place, you don't want smoking. In a dump no one would go to, you have to drag someone in.

    I suspect the same would occur here. A change to smoking regulations would not usher in a new era of smoking tolerance. All the nice places would want to keep their nice trade of high margin grub and a few struggling dumps would let the gaspers back in. But there's no point in smartening a place up for smokers.

  46. So pre ban, most pubs were 'shitholes'. Glad I know that for 45 years I frequented 'shitholes.'.

  47. 'There's no point in smartening a place up for smokers'. Just to make sure I've got this straight: would that be because (a) they are all filthy scum, or (b) their money is worth less than nonsmokers' money?

  48. Because to a smoker, the world is an ashtray.

  49. Did they never clean it, then? Y'know tedious things like wiping tables, emptying ashtrays? Maybe now in these pristine new clinics all they have to do is take away empty glasses and plates with leftovers on. They still have to wipe tables , of course, and clean the floors regularly I would imagine. Or maybe they don't any more. I wouldn't really know as I've stopped being a regular customer.

    This is silly. We all know that in the event of an amendment every pub would attempt to accommodate both if they can. It's called profit. I'd rest easy, though, as the ban isn't about the protection of bar staff, that's complete BS. It's a stick to beat smokers and smoking with and because of this, will not be easy to amend.

  50. In the event of an amendment allowing a smoking room, pubs will presumably have a choice to make. Get of the pool room and make it a smoking room? 10 extra smoking customers or 20 extra pool player customers?

    Massive estate pubs won't have a problem, but the little country pub might just decide its not worth the hassle.

  51. "Massive estate pubs won't have a problem, but the little country pub might just decide its not worth the hassle."

    Fair comment depending on any amendment but I couldn't imagine, in today's paranoid world, it would be much less than an NBC suit area.

    The important thing is the Pub/Landlord having the choice. It's up to them and their customers, not the state. Don't like a pub or restaurant that allows smoking? Don't go! but, of course, this is the original 'level playing field' argument. That, essentially the pubcos, feared losing custom to the wet led pubs. And still do.


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