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Hospitality Ulster launches in Belfast

On 26/05/15 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

I was delighted to accept the invitation of Colin Neill, the CEO of Pubs of Ulster, to attend their relaunch as Hospitality Ulster in Belfast. BBPA has worked closely with Colin on beer duty and Northern Irish MPs have supported the cause, signing the EDM and writing to the Chancellor. It is also good to share best practice and pick up policy proposals in Northern Ireland which may also be considered in the rest of the UK!

Professionalism in any organisation often attracts political support, but even I was surprised to find myself speaking to, and being photographed with, Peter Robinson, the First Minister of Northern Ireland and his Finance Minister, Arlene Foster. Both attended and spoke at the morning launch. I am particularly sorry to learn that the First Minister is now unwell. He is an exceptionally good speaker and clearly passionate about the importance of hospitality and tourism to the Northern Ireland economy.

On the previous evening, I sat next to the Environment Minister Mark H Durkan (the H is to distinguish him from his Uncle Mark Durkan who is a Westminster MP). Environment in Northern Ireland is a department which has a wide ranging remit. Roads (so we discussed drink driving and their decision to reduce the blood alcohol limit to 50mg as in Scotland); Entertainment Licensing (which is up for amendment), climate change (so we discussed Packaging Recovery Notes) and of course support for the pub!

Hospitality Ulster commissioned Oxford Economics to undertake an economic overview. They found that their sector supports 65,000 jobs, contributes £1.2 billion to the NI economy, paying £635 million in wages. They are looking to grow the numbers employed by 5,000 by 2020.

Following the morning launch, I was invited to become a member of the Strategic Advisory Panel. Around 30 operators, trade associations, civil servants and other professionals met to discuss the priorities. There are a range of issues where the competitiveness of the North is struggling against lower costs in the South. The Republic of Ireland has removed Air Passenger Duty entirely. Set against an average £13 per person in NI, this means that many fly in and out South of the border. VAT is another clear area for concern and the NI Assembly has agreed to undertake a study into VAT for discussion with the UK Government.

Other issues are devolved, but taking time to change. A change in licensing laws which are in some cases archaic has been agreed, but is held up by the arguments over welfare costs. Familiar tales of red tape (you have to have your ceiling inspected in Belfast - and pay for the survey) as if it was an ancient theatre, but not in Derry! Business Rates are a shared concern for the hospitality sector and uniting the whole province for their 2016 Year of Food is a priority.

Hospitality Ulster will have representatives in every major town. It is an exciting, ambitious organisation, well connected, very well led by Colin Neill and his team and keen like the BBPA to reach out to the world of tourism, restaurants, hotels and leisure and make changes which benefit them all. Congratulations on your launch and we look forward to working with you closely in the coming months and years.

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


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Meeting the Brewers of Europe in Tromsø

On 19/05/15 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

Tromsø; 2,000 km from Oslo in Norway and 1,500 from the Russian Border. The land of Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights), which you see in the winter months, and the midnight sun, which can be seen from the end of May - it was certainly never dark whilst I was there! Since 1877 there has been a brewery, and Harold Bredrup (chairman of the Norwegian Brewers) is the 5th generation family brewer who owns the 'Mach' brand. As it happens, Harold is the British Consul in Tromsø and the links to Britain are clear.

I was in Tromsø for the meeting of the Northern countries who make up Brewers of Europe, which includes the UK, Ireland, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway. It was the first time I have been to Norway and never so close to the Arctic. Tromsø is home to the Polar Institute and those who use it as a base before heading off for the Arctic. Their bar has been home to polar hunters and both in their pub and in the hotel there were stuffed polar bears!

There was prohibition in Norway from 1916 to 1927, but the brewery was allowed to sell beer on the premises as it already had permission to produce. During the Second World War when Norway was occupied by the Germans, they at first refused to allow the brewery to sell beer, and then demanded that they provide beer for all German troops everywhere in Norway. Because they needed to know how many soldiers they were supplying, they gathered detailed figures of troop movements which they were able to pass back to London.

It was May, but like being in Scotland in February. Cold, snow on the steep slopes of the mountains, very beautiful, but as yet no leaves on the trees. I gathered that spring is not a season in northern Norway, instead they wake up one day to green leaves and summer has arrived. The snow lasts until June.

In our meeting, we discussed our individual markets, nutritional labelling, the Brewers of Europe plans to produce a lobbying tool on reducing duty, the review of the Structures Directive and much more besides. It gives us an opportunity to agree our lines before the next Secretaries General meeting in June. It is a valuable alliance and a good opportunity to share best practice.

We were given the chance to drive out to the new brewery for 'Mach' which was completed in 2013 at a cost of £35 million. In addition to 15 types of beer (for which they suggest music on vinyl to accompany each one!), they also produce cider are the only producer of Coca-Cola in Norway. They also produce their own soft drinks, with half the capacity of the brewery for beer and the other for soft drinks. The new brewery has allowed them to reduce their energy costs by 40 per cent and water use by 50 per cent.

The region is certainly a fascinating place to visit. It is great for skiing, particularly 'randonnée', but it is as far from London to Oslo as it is from Oslo to Tromsø! However, great beer and a warm welcome await you when you are there!

Beer and vinyl matching, Tromso

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


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Policy implications of the General Election

On 14/05/15 by Andy Tighe (Policy Director)

Perhaps unsurprisingly, my first thought about the election result was what does it mean for beer and pubs?

There was a sense of relief on beer duty unlikely to be an immediate target for more revenue and generally the government being likely to continue to pursue a deregulation agenda.

On other taxes, the ambition on the scale of businesses rates reform may not be as wide-ranging as some would like but certainly offers opportunity. However, the price tag and preference for tax simplification mean a reduction in Vat for the hospitality sector remains a big a challenge as ever.

Very little was said pre-election on alcohol policy and we would like to see a continuation of the Responsibility Deal and all stakeholders working together to focus on targeted and effective measures to tackle alcohol-related harm without penalising responsible drinkers and well run pubs. Jane Ellison's reappointment as a very pragmatic Public Health minister is welcome in that sense.

On pub company legislation, the forward strategy announcements by Enterprise Inns this week again demonstrates how Government intervention in a highly competitive market can have quite far-reaching implications. We will need to work hard to ensure enactment of the Pubs Code through secondary legislation provides a workable and proportionate solution for all parties.

To finish on a positive note, the new Cabinet and other ministerial positions contain a significant number of our beer champions and I’m sure they’ll live up to their illustrious award.

Andy Tighe
Policy Director


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BII Licensee of the Year 2015

On 12/05/15 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

The British Institute of Innkeeping Licensee of the Year is a much-coveted award. It involves a rigorous process led by two judges; John Sharratt and Ashley McCarthy (a previous winner). This year, there were 96 entrants, and it has been my privilege to be one of the final judges for the past three years. It is inspiring, and not only gives me the opportunity to meet some great licensees, but brings home the challenges they are facing on a day-to-day basis and highlights how we at the BBPA can help.

The final interview process comprises four panels of three, where the six finalists have to answer questions on marketing and business development, finance, people and training and broader industry issues/CSR. The latter was my panel which I chaired with Robert Humphreys and Mark Baird (Diageo). Questions we asked included: ‘what does social responsibility mean to you?’; ‘are you a member of any local partnership scheme?’; ‘is the new statutory pubs code going to affect you at all?’; ‘are you in favour of any further changes to the Licensing Act?’; ‘do you believe for example, that health should become a licensing objective?’; ‘deregulation – is this a priority?’; and ‘how would you see your ambassadorial role if you win?’

There was a mixture of independent, tied and managed licensees amongst the finalists. Several were involved in Pubwatch and Best Bar None; most understood what it meant to be socially responsible and it was good to hear about their views on promotions. For example, not using volume based promotions, not serving drunks (we have a BBPA poster campaign raising awareness of the offence of selling alcohol to drunks, which the BII has kindly agreed to highlight in their next magazine issue) working with local police and local authorities, promoting lower alcohol beers, personal responsibility and the need to ensure customers are able to go home safely.

Not all knew very much about the Statutory Code, but those who were tied felt that there was a real need for the industry to move forward together and to be aware of unintended consequences in the legislation. There was a clear message that any action by police and local authorities, and indeed for any further legislation, should be evidence based. As to their role as ambassadors, the clear career path of working in pubs, professionalism, their role as an employer, and how to have a career in the licensed trade and bring up a family were the key themes.

All of the entrants were passionate about their role in the industry and I hope they will benefit from the experience. They were enthusiastic, genuinely loved their work and I felt that much of their information about the wider world came often from the national information we pass down to our members, who in turn keep their licensees informed.

Without telling too many tales out of school, I almost had the giggles when Robert Humphreys challenged a licensee who had an over-21 policy about what they would do if he brought his 19 year old son into the pub; quick as a flash they replied, if you were to bring your grandson! Robert later admitted that his grandson is only 3, so perhaps he will not be visiting a pub for some time yet!

The winner of the BII Licensee of the Year will be announced at their Annual Lunch on 2nd June.

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


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Inspirational young chefs at the Nestlé Professional Toque D’Or grand final

On 24/04/15 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

The Nestlé Professional Toque D’Or grand final awards is always inspiring and this year was no different. More teams than ever before entered this year’s competition and were eventually whittled down to six finalists. Each team comprises two chefs and one front-of–house team member. The finalists came from colleges in Glasgow, Birmingham, Sheffield, Doncaster, Blackpool & Fylde and Westminster.

In February, 108 students from 27 colleges took part and with just three hours, had to plan and produce chorizo with clams, mussels and squid, lamb with a mint crust and white chocolate crème brûlée for ten. Challenges for the finalists included preparing street food at the o2 and a five star breakfast at the Wolsey.

The overall winner this year, for the third time in the history of the competition, (a hat-trick like this year’s beer duty cut!) was Westminster Kingsway College. I was an emotional night so well compered by Mark Durden-Smith – he really does manage to encourage even the shyest students to say something. This year, we had an athlete from Sheffield who, before she trained as a chef, carried the Olympic torch. We had a diver who told us that vocations were not encouraged at his school; one candidate took part in the X Factor (he even sang for us) and is a keen Irish dancer!

It is the sort of competition which really does aim to raise standards in our industry and provide aspiration for all those who enter. For BBPA, there is clearly a link to our Pub Chef’s Passion website: 'Passionate in Life, Passionate in Work; we are all pub chefs'! Nestlé, which is a BBPA associate member, works with our member companies on their coffee offer, stocks and sauces and of course all the other products they own.

I had the privilege of sitting next to Anton Mosiman who will offer the winners the opportunity to be part of his team in Belgrave Square. They all aspire to reach his standard, and I am sure that some will work in our pubs, where of course they may well have the opportunity to run their own business from a very early age.

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


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Leading the way on promoting responsible retailing

On 20/04/15 by Daisy Blench (Policy Manager - Responsibility)

We frequently see stories in the news decrying the scandal of ‘Binge Britain’ and criticising the pub trade for encouraging excessive alcohol consumption fuelling anti-social behaviour on our streets.

However, pubs are about far more than selling drinks. Pubs are constantly adapting to cater to the increased demand for eating out and appealing to the family market. They are also increasingly aware of their social and community responsibility.

Ask anyone in the trade and they will tell you that having rowdy drunks in their pubs is just as much of a problem for them as for the local community - and that it is in everyone’s interests to see this addressed and promote greater individual and retailer responsibility.

The industry has invested a great deal in initiatives aimed at tackling alcohol misuse and irresponsible consumption. The industry-led Challenge 21 campaign in particular was hugely successful in tackling the issue of underage selling and showed than industry can be highly successful in delivering consumer facing campaigns to raise awareness on key issues.

And the trends are encouraging – binge drinking, underage drinking and alcohol related crime and anti-social behaviour are all down and continue to fall.

However, no-one should be complacent and we are always keen to look ways that companies and pubs can best support efforts to continue to raise standards and promote best practice within the licensed trade.

In response to a focus from a number of the Government’s selected ‘Local Alcohol Action Areas’, on tackling public drunkenness and alcohol related anti-social behaviour, BBPA has worked with National Pubwatch and Drinkaware to create a new poster campaign to help raise awareness of the offences under the Licensing Act 2003 to sell to, or obtain alcohol for, a person who is drunk on licensed premises.

In practical terms this includes:

• Selling an alcoholic drink to someone who you know is drunk

• Buying an alcoholic drink for someone who you know is drunk

As those in the trade know, working in a pub or behind the bar can be tough; a busy environment with lots of people there to enjoy themselves and have a good time and a thousand things to remember quite apart from ensuring that you always abide by the many laws that govern the pub trade.

Staff in licensed premises can be put in a very difficult position if pressurised to serve drunk customers. However, as well as the incentive to maintain a safe and sociable premises for all, the penalties for serving someone who is drunk can be significant. These include a fine for the individual of up to £1,000 and the risk of losing a premises licence if the premises is taken to review based on this issue.

The new campaign aims to support staff in upholding these laws and give them an additional tool to clearly remind customers of the law in a relatively light-hearted format. They are available to download for free on the BBPA website here and licensees are encouraged to make use of them where they can, either behind the bar, in the toilets or wherever most appropriate! The materials can also be used as part of staff training programmes.

Whilst posters are never going to be the whole answer to educating and informing people of the law they can hopefully be a useful contribution to the ongoing work by the trade to make sure that everyone stays within the law and continues to have a great time in the pub.

Daisy Blench
Policy Manager - Responsibility


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Britain's First National Beer Day is Coming!

On 07/04/15 by Jane Peyton (instigator of Beer Day Britain, author of several books including 'Beer o'Clock' and current Beer Sommelier of the Year. )

Beer Day Britain

June 15th 2015

Brewers and pubs - your country needs you! Britain is the only major brewing nation that does not celebrate its national drink with a special day. That will change on June 15th with Beer Day Britain when we will make an impact in the country's consciousness as we demonstrate why Britain's beer and pubs should be recognized as national treasures. Will you join in the celebrations and help to spread the word so we have a national beer day that sends a message to everyone that beer and pubs are central to British society.

June 15th is also the date that Magna Carta was sealed in 1215. This year there will be major national and international events to mark the 800th anniversary.

Why did I suggest June 15th for Beer Day Britain? Because ale is mentioned in Article 35 of Magna Carta:

'Let there be throughout our kingdom a single measure for wine and a single measure for ale and a single measure for corn, namely "the London quarter"'

Ale was so important in England in 1215 that it was included in one of the most significant legal documents in history - the influence of which has been described as England's greatest export. To me beer is Britain's greatest export because from the 17th century British ships spread the desire for beer to all hemispheres of the world. More styles of beer invented in Britain are now brewed regularly around the world than those of any other brewing nation. These include Pale Ale, India Pale Ale, Mild, Brown Ale, Stout, Porter, Imperial Russian Stout, and Barley Wine. What stellar reasons to celebrate beer and to recognise the role that beer and pubs play in Britain's GNH - gross national happiness.

The intention of Beer Day Britain is:
• To encourage people to drink beer whether that is at the pub, a barbeque, party, picnic, brewery tap room, or rail ale.
• To raise the profile of beer as Britain's national drink.
• To make people proud of Britain's beer and pubs today and of Britain's heritage as the brewing powerhouse and its role in spreading beer around the world.
• To have a fantastic time drinking and enthusing about our favourite drink.

At 12.15pm on June 15th we are planning a nationwide communal cheers when beer lovers are encouraged to go to the pub or open a bottle of beer somewhere and raise a glass. The time of 12.15pm relates to the year that Magna Carta was sealed. The aim is to trend on Twitter using the hashtag #CheersBDB. Several breweries and pub chains are planning to participate.

Ideally everyone involved with beer, whether that is making, selling or drinking it will arrange or partake in special events on June 15th. For instance pubs might host beer festivals, hog roasts, fancy dress parties, menus of the type of food eaten when Magna Carta was sealed, old style pub game tournaments. Brewers might brew celebration brews, breweries might throw parties. The most important thing on the day is to drink beer no matter where it is but prior to that, to spread the word and build enthusiasm via all communication channels.

An information pack, logo and beer mat artwork are available on the Beer Day Britain website

The Twitter address is @BeerDayBritain and there is also a FaceBook page called Beer Day Britain. Please use the logo as much as you can and let people know that you are a proud supporter of Beer Day Britain.

We cannot do this without your support so please join us to make Beer Day Britain a major success.

Thank you and cheers to beer! Jane Peyton.

Jane Peyton
instigator of Beer Day Britain, author of several books including 'Beer o'Clock' and current Beer Sommelier of the Year.


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The Original Social Network

On 02/04/15 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

The Scottish Beer & Pub Association led the launch of a short film to promote the ‘on trade’ sector in Scotland at Holyrood on 31st March. With support from the BHA and SLTA, Richard Lochhead MSP, the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food & Environment, spoke about the importance of local food, pubs at the centre of their local communities and the crucial role of the licensed trade at the heart of the Scottish economy.

Our host was Christina McKelvie MSP for Hamilton, Larkhall & Stonehouse, who appropriately attended with a local publican and talked about pubs as the place to make a ‘pall’, great Scottish food and her discussions in Brussels about the importance of Scotland and, the unique Scottish pub.

So to the facts: there are 4,937 pubs in Scotland; the sector contributes £1.5 billion to the Scottish economy and over £900 million in tax revenues. The beer and pub sector employs over 43,000 people in Scotland of which 40 per cent are under 25. The food and drink industry is worth £13 billion a year in Scotland and it is not just Scots who are increasingly choosing to eat in pubs and bars. Visitors spend nearly £800 million a year. Research by VisitScotland showed that 58 per cent of all tourists said they had eaten in a pub or bar and this figure rose to 71 per cent of overseas visitors.

David Paterson, head of public affairs and social responsibility at Heineken and President of the SBPA, was very clear about the role of the pub in Scotland. He said, “it’s hard to put a pound note value on that. But it’s no coincidence that the important moments in the life of a nation – debate, celebration, sporting success - and failure – are often played out in the pub. For moments like these – people look to the on-trade for those shared experiences. It’s where we catch up with old friends, and make new ones. Where new relationships take their first steps. Sometimes where they falter. Where new businesses and grand plans are born”.

Guests were joined by apprentices on the Diageo ‘Learning for Life’ programme and later moved onto the Hemma pub which, under the ownership of Anna Christopherson, operates as a community hub, offering clubs from pugs to knitting, book clubs to ping pong!

Inevitably discussion turned to the recent change in the drink drive laws in Scotland where the blood alcohol limit had been reduced from 80mg to 50mg. There has been an effect on pubs, but it is early days. SBPA will be undertaking some research into sales figures and report back in the summer. After such a successful launch, we will be looking to the Scottish Government for more support. Already the effect of the drink driving change has been deemed to be a material consideration for business rates in Scotland. More help with business rates and perhaps some marketing of a great industry which contributes so much to Scottish life may be sought after that.

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


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Report from the Drinkaware Roadshow

On 27/03/15 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

Last week, Daisy Blench and I attended the new Drinkaware London Roadshow and the opening of the organisation’s new offices. Following successful conferences in previous years, Drinkaware decided to go for a new and different format with the events moving on to Birmingham and Edinburgh. It was a real opportunity to hear about their progress, campaigns and meet the team. Here are a few highlights.

Sir Leigh Lewis, the Chairman of Drinkaware, was delighted that all their key supporters had reconfirmed their funding and this year they will receive a little more than £5 million from some 70 funders, including some who are new. Last year they also received some external income for the first time, from the Nottingham Alcohol Partnership.
We heard about the 8 million unique visitors to the Drinkaware website, including almost one million in December. This is up 40 per cent since 2013. Slightly more women than men visit the site; they are predominately under the age of 35; 27 per cent come from London, but otherwise it is an even spread across the UK. They have now reached a quarter of the UK adult population over the last five years.

The new app they have developed has attracted 100,000 downloads and allows people to keep a drinking diary and set themselves goals to moderate their alcohol intake. They continue to undertake research to find out who the different types of drinker are as well as what people are drinking, how, why and whether they are interested in moderating their drinking. There were many different drinking motivations, but overall young people were drinking less and those over 45, more.

Drinkaware is looking to broaden its reach, through media buys, marketing and partnership activity. The organisation work with eBay, MSN, Mail Online and Spa to name but a few. The Twitter community has doubled from 6,000 to 12,000 and Facebook from 20,000 to 23,000. They have undertaken research which shows that small changes in messaging make a big difference as to whether visitors to a site take the next step.

In Nottingham, Drinkaware has developed a new pilot project with the Nottingham Alcohol Partnership and a commercial operator to tackle the harmful behaviours that are a feature of ‘drunken nights out’. It was very much based on raising awareness that if it certain behaviour is unacceptable when you are sober then it is unacceptable when you are drunk. It focused on drunken sexual harassment specifically. There was a clear lack of awareness of some young men in particular that sexual harassment was a problem. As part of the project, ‘club hosts’ were trained to offer support and help to potentially vulnerable customers and alongside this, Drinkaware developed a cinema and social media advertising campaign to raise awareness of the issue The evaluation of the pilot showed that there was an increase in the number of young people who understood that certain behaviour was unacceptable.

It was all good to hear and understand and very impressive, with a clear focus on going beyond providing people with information and seeking to bring about real behavioural change to reduce harmful drinking. At the end of the afternoon Derek Lewis, the former chairman, officially opened the new Drinkaware offices. The Lewis and Lewis show you might presume!

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


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