See other images of the town at Lewes Light
Life in this overworked and stressed-out
The public house is, as its name suggests, our modern-day longhouse – a place where one can escape daily cares and speak freely to friends and colleagues, whilst pouring whatever your poison is down one’s throat until things don’t seem too bad at all. A place where one can get some sense of community, of being part of something bigger than oneself.
Naturally, this last bastion of free speech and free thinking is under threat. The ‘free houses’ have in the last two decades or so, been gobbled up by industrial chains whose only interest is the bottom line. In a criminal wave of refurbishment, establishments that have survived centuries largely unchanged have been vandalised and turned into modern-day gin palaces, ersatz heritage destinations - history with the soul sucked out of its bones.
The Lewes Arms is, by any measure, a successful pub. A motley collection of small rooms, with no music or mobile phones, its full of people, dogs, children and conversation. Chess games in one corner, toads in the games room, crosswords at the bar. There are an endless series of meetings and events in the upstairs function room, including the annual pantomime (held in February !!), jazz and folk clubs, reader’s groups, exhibitions, public meetings, cribbage sessions and more. The pub has a calendar of strange and wonderful competitions including dwyle flunking (don’t ask), spaniel racing, pea-throwing and sundry other delights.
The most popular drink is
Word around the bar is that some 80% or more of the drink sold in the bar is
So what can Greene King’s motive be for banning the home brew? Surely, even if it is another brewer’s product, if its making money for you, what’s the problem. GK are introducing their own ale, called the ‘Lewes Arms’ but they must be delusional if they expect seasoned
So it may come as a surprise or not, that the trade magazine The Publican is running a national campaign called Proud of Pubs, whose main sponsor is Greene King. More than 1 in 10 MPs from across the parties in the House of Commons, have signed up to a motion backing the trade and the campaign.
In fact Rooney Anand, chief executive of Greene King, told his audience of licensees and MPs at the campaign’s launch in Parliament, that the motion was “a great start” in the battle to put pubs on the front foot and highlight their positive contribution to the nation. “It’s about time society started standing up for pubs, and recognising them as one of our nation’s greatest assets.”
This point was underlined by Fiona Hope, marketing director of Greene King, who said: “The pub and the pint are great institutions that play a positive role in millions of people’s lives.’ The campaign’s website urges readers to pledge allegiance to their local by filling in and submitting a small form. By pledging allegiance in this way, says Fiona Hope, it ‘gives pub-goers a communal voice in support of great pubs and great beer.’
The Lewes Arms already has a communal voice and its saying: ‘So why is Greene King proposing to remove
It is clear that, if they continue to insist with this misguided strategy, then a substantial number of our little community will be scattered to the winds and the welcoming arms of other establishments around the town. Does this matter? It matters if you believe all the values that Greene King say they aspire to.
Fiona again: “We want to show the wider world that it’s not just the pub industry that values pubs and beers. It’s the millions of people who visit pubs for great company, quality food and excellent beer. People who care about their local.”
We are some of the people who care about our local and hope to hold Greene King to the high values that they claim to espouse. They can demonstrate this by leaving the Lewes Arms and its
To take the argument one step further. There is another national campaign called Local Works, backed by more than 80 national organisations – including the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) and the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) – which is a lobbying for the introduction of a Sustainable Communities Bill.
‘If the bill becomes law, writes Daniel Pearce in The Publican, it will set up a process where local communities will have more decision-making power over local issues and the government will be required to help reverse ‘Ghost Town Britain.’
Roy Bailey, who is leading the campaign, says such a bill will put pressure on pub companies to do more to ensure local beers find their way into local pubs.
SIBA director Nick Stafford told The Publican : “There’s already a consensus that the pub is the hub of the community. What better support can the pub get from its local brewer? It’s got to be a priority for every brewer to help its local pub by providing it with quality beer, at a reasonable price.”
We are familiar with the concept of ‘food miles’ so now we should be talking about ‘beer miles.’ Local beer in local pubs means less lorries and tankers on the road and less damaging greenhouse gases.
Incidentally, has Greene King got an environmental policy. Perhaps it could use its considerable energy and expertise to commit to making the lighting in all its pubs energy efficient and ensure that beer is delivered the shortest distance from source to mouth. The corporate colour is Green but one suspects the company is a long way from fulfilling its social obligation in this regard.
It summary, it seems that Greene King, like many other large corporates, has a public face which claims to be supporting the very values that they are actually intent on destroying.
Recent reviews of the Lewes Arms from www.beerintheevening.com
Beware!! It is strongly rumoured down here in Lewes that Greene King are trying to remove
The "own brew beer" is almost certainly a beer from the Greene King portfolio rebadged for this pub, but I do not know which one. It is rumoured that the
This is the sort of pub you dream about having as your local. After many years of dreaming, it now is. Despite being a Greene King tied house, it still serves
This is a fabulous pub. It is everything a pub should be - very friendly punters, good beer, a relaxing place to be. It has three separate rooms, including an intimate front bar. A great place to play chess as well! Although it is a Greene King pub,
Always a pleasure to see you hit the nail on the head!
I'm setting out for Lewes shortly from Toronto here in Canada. At the top of my to-do list will be a visit to my old watering hole in Lewes - the Lewes Arms - to see my old chums and quaff a few pints of Harvey's best.
We've already seen Harvey's disappear from the Black Horse, a fine Lewes pub, much to our chagrin.
The question of taking out the Harvey's at the Arms has been rumbling on for years. It has been hanging over us like the sword of Damocles! It is almost as if we need to be punished for having the temerity to be different. In a town known for bonfires and floods, we need to be taught a lesson by a heartless bigco who take us all for granted.
I recall Greene King being lampooned in the parade on the 5th of November in recent years, but to a bunch of Suffolk accountants it is water off a duck's back. What do they know of Lewes and its quirky concerns?
They care even less. A spot of bother - get the PR department to fix it! Well don't fix what ain't broke, as they say in these parts. We like it the way it is!
Rupert Lloyd Thomas, Toronto
One way for people to make known their views on actions taken by listed companies is to become a shareholder and turn up at the company's Annual General Meeting to ask questions.
People can make their own minds up and should bear in mind that some companies make it very difficult for small shareholders to have a say. (I have no idea if this is so with Greene King).
Anyway, Greene King shares are today (October 2nd) about 9 quid each. The cheapest way to buy a share appears to be by calling 0845 601 0995 and quoting reference Low Co0169, a service promoted on the GK website. I checked this morning and they would accept purchases of just one share with a debit card.
The minimum commission is 15 quid, so for 24 quid you can become a GK shareholder and turn up at their next AGM and ask the board questions about their conduct of the company's affairs.
For the last 3 years GK have held their AGM on the first Friday in September at Culford School near Bury St. Edmunds. This is 133 miles from Lewes by road and the AA says it takes 2 1/2 hours. By train, don't even think about it.
More of all this later perhaps.
In the meantime, a curiosity: Graham Greene was a scion of the brewing family. His first novel, The Man Within, was set largely in Lewes and is an everyday story of 18th century smuggling folk. The hero even stays in an inn near the High Street. If not the Rainbow, The Lewes Arms?
More Greene King News:
Greene King to close Hardys & Hansons Kimberley brewery; 80 jobs at risk
LONDON (AFX) October 3 - Greene King PLC, the East Anglian-based brewer and pubs group, will close the Hardy & Hansons brewery at Kimberley, Nottingham, putting around 80 jobs at risk.
The group, which acquired Hardys & Hansons for 270 mln stg earlier this year, said that following a review of the business it made 'no economic sense' to continue brewing at the site. Production is scheduled to stop by the end of this year.
'The review has given us a very detailed understanding of the company and has underlined the quality of the business we've acquired. But we've concluded with regret that it doesn't make economic sense to continue brewing at Kimberley and sadly this means that the brewery will close at the end of the year,' said Greene King s chief executive Rooney Anand.
Production will be switched to Greene King's Bury St Edmunds site. The head office functions will also be moved there by the end of December.
'Greene King invests more in cask beer than any other brewer but, to remain viable, returns have to be delivered on this investment. The best way to ensure that Hardys & Hansons' brands continue to flourish in a challenging ale market is to transfer brewing to Bury St Edmunds,' Rooney said.
Greene King will, however, retain the Kimberley's cellar service and distribution business.
'Whilst it will be sad to close the brewery, we are pleased that the value of our activities in distribution, cellar services and sales, as well as throughout our extensive pub operations, has been recognised,' said Jonathan Webster, managing director of Hardys & Hansons.
For the record, the next Greene King AGM is on Friday 31st August 2007, I presume in Culford.
Well said John!
I believe that Greene King are deeply envious of the success of Harvey's and are trying to use their coporate power to squeeze our local brewery out of business.
The Lewes Arms is an absolutely wonderful local - the absence of poker machines, juke boxes and mobile phones encourages conversation (how else did all these unique events evolve at the Lewes Arms?). Combined with Lewes folk being very interesting, it makes a wonderful community resource. Long may it continue.
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