The Pubs Code Adjudicator (PCA) has found that Star Pubs & Bars committed 12 breaches of the Pubs Code in respect of various aspects of its approach to the inclusion of stocking terms in its free of tie proposals between July 2016 and July 2019.
The PCA also found that, in addition to the impact on individual tenants who received terms that breached the Code, the policies and practices adopted by Star would have acted as a deterrent to Star tenants seeking to access their Pubs Code rights to go free of tie.
The PCA has also found a fundamental failure of culture and oversight in respect of Code duties including not ensuring the Code Compliance Officer’s role could be properly effective.
Lawson Mountstevens (pictured), Managing Director, Star Pubs & Bars, responded to the news, “We are deeply disappointed and frustrated at the outcome of this investigation. There are many aspects of the report that we fundamentally disagree with and we are actively considering an appeal.
'This penalty is unwarranted and disproportionate, and comes at a time when the entire sector is in serious financial crisis as we work around the clock to support our pubs and licensees to keep their businesses afloat.
“We are a responsible business that takes its regulatory obligations extremely seriously and strives to achieve the highest levels of professionalism.
'From the outset we have been transparent and repeatedly sought guidance from the regulator on the terms we were offering those licensees looking to take up the Market Rent Only (MRO) option, but the PCA consistently declined to respond to those requests. Instead it chose to launch a long, costly and unnecessary investigation.
“We are dedicated to the Pubs Code in both word and spirit, and do not believe the outcome of this investigation accurately reflects the culture of our business or the good working relationship we have with the vast majority of our licensees.
'In our view there are flaws in the way the statutory framework is applied, and we call on the Government to examine this as part of their statutory review.”