Often we tend not to sympathise with others until we’ve been involved in a similar situation ourselves. Well it’s happened to me, my local has shut and won’t be open anytime soon. Sam Smith’s have placed huge boulders across the car park entrance and the entire stock was removed within days of the previous manager being sacked.
But there’s two other pubs in your village, I can hear some of you saying. I know, but they’re not the same. I know, I’ve always gone into the pub across the road, but the company formerly known as Enterprise have put a (poor) temporary manager in and advertised the pub for sale, after refusing three serious offers from the previous long term lessee to buy the place. The only conclusion I can draw from that is Ei Group don’t want to sell to a potential competitor. There’s a fine Ei Group pub with letting rooms in Boston Spa that’s been closed for several years now. Even though serious interest was shown by a respected Yorkshire brewer, they seem to prefer disposing of it to the Co-Op.
It’s no coincidence the other pub in my village is also owned by Ei Group. Prior to the Beer Orders, 95% of the pubs in the district were originally owned by either John or Sam Smith’s from nearby Tadcaster.
For some reason I hardly ever go in the other Ei Group pub. I don’’t know why? It’s a decent boozer, well run and the cask beer, usually something like Copper Dragon and a guest, is always spot on when I go in. Thing is, it’s not my local.
I guess you could write a thesis on what makes a pub your local, but the point of this is really to ask what’s going on with Sam Smith’s?
The upgraded Admiral Hawke, less than a mile away, is now without manager and has been closed for several weeks. I looked on Gumtree, Sam Smith’s preferred medium for advertising their vacancies, that and a photocopied notice stuck to the front door.
I’m reliably informed the telephone number on the notice is that of Mr Humphrey Smith himself, who is, amongst many things at Sam Smith’s, an area manager. If you express an interest he will actually come round to your house to check you out.
Sorry, I digress, lets get back to Gumtree, at the time of writing Samuel Smith Old Brewery have 40 positions advertised and 39 of them are for management positions for their licensed premises. If you work on the premise they have 200 pubs, the Brewery website says in the region of 200, that’s currently 20% of their public houses requiring managers.
Speaking to people who have managed Sam Smith’s houses, it’s not surprising. Round these parts a lot of managers are dispensed with, just before they have attained two years employment. I’m told this is because the basic rule in employment law is that employees require 103 weeks of service in order to bring an ordinary unfair dismissal claim. Even if there are exceptions, most folk tend to go quietly because they want their fidelity bond back, £1000 is quite a significant sum if you’ve been living on the wages paid in the many of the small, low turnover pubs which sort of explains the poor staff retention. That, and from what I’ve been told, the brewery are not very nice to work for.
I’m not going to say Sam Smith’s pubs are the best thing since sliced bread. Yes OBB may be an acquired taste, and if not properly looked after can be vomit inducing. But I do think Sam’s will be seen as philanthropists at some stage. There’s plenty of small villages that wouldn’t have a pub if they hadn’t been Sam’s and I do like the Sam’s pubs near me.
So the first thing on my list to Santa is; please tell those people at the Old Brewery in Tadcaster to give their heads a shake and sort their pubs out.