Few pub landlords are owners. Most are tenants. The tied house is still the norm rather than the exception. Becoming a pub landlord was also, like grammar schools, one of the highways of upward social mobility for the offspring of landlords; Jamie Oliver's dad was a publican. Landlords were also informal local leaders, from the local stream, of the local people, but embodying the upholding of the law; any criminal activity would lead to the magistrates refusing a licence and having to take down that statutory shingle above the front door.
So I think Paul Kenny of the GMB has the right of it when he says to the Indie today:
"A warning from BBPA on pub closures is like another instance of Jesse James warning the people of the Wild West to beware of train robbers. BBPA is the last body anyone interested in thriving pubs should listen to.
"It is the artificially high rents and high wholesale prices charged by BBPA pubco members to tied pub tenants that has led to artificially high prices for drinks in pubs and led to drinkers deserting rural and urban pubs in droves.
"Drinkers are refusing to pay an additional pound per drink needed to pay interest to offshore bondholders of the pubcos. This has been a major factor in the spate of pub closures and the low income for the pub tenants in recent years.
"This week GMB published data which shows that by 2009 alcohol sales in the on trade were 25% down on 2002 levels. In contrast by 2008 alcohol sales from supermarkets and off licences were up by 21.1% on 2002 levels. In recent times the recession has impacted but off sales are still over 12% higher than in 2002. Retail prices are what are driving this change. Wetherspoons have thrived over this same period which bears out this point.
"Rural campaigners who want to save village pubs should help GMB get rid of the 'tie' and the high prices that follow it."