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Tue 16th Sep 2014 - Brian Whiting – ‘Harveys has acted disgracefully over pub’
Brian Whiting – ‘Harveys has acted disgracefully over pub’: Whiting & Hammond founder Brian Whiting has accused Lewes-based brewer Harvey’s of acting disgracefully over Old Dunnings Mill in East Grinstead, which the brewer has decided to take under management as Whiting & Hammond lease expires this month. Harveys is planning to take half of its tenanted estate under management but has spoken of its regret that negotiations over the Whiting & Hammond pub have been “not as amicable” as it would have liked. The brewer has claimed, though, that it was not prepared to continue to lose money on the site and the two sides were unable to agree a rent. Whiting, breaking his silence on the subject, said: “Ten years’ ago, when we took the site on, it was in a pretty poor state - the building hadn’t been open full-time for approximately two years, opening occasionally on the weekend. Harveys had tried to sell the site but had failed to offload it as nobody was interested. After a joint investment by Harveys and Whiting & Hammond the site was reopened. In the past decade, the area where the Old Dunnings Mill is sited has gone through a major development, which has meant that the pub has been run in this time on a building site. (The work) has now been completed and the area itself is much better (but) this has taken over five years. I think it’s a disgrace the way Harveys has acted. Now things are rosy the greed factor has stepped in. Landlords who are frightened that an operator is making a penny more than them do not deserve to succeed. Harveys have stated in the Press that it is looking to take back most of their sites to managed. Ironically, they’ve never run the site in the past so this should be quite interesting. I thought that landlords acting in this way had become a thing of the past, (but) sadly I’m mistaken. If we (had) ever thought ten years ago Harveys would want to take this site back at the end of its term we would have never done the deal. It’s a real kick in the teeth to build up a site from absolutely nothing. If I was a Harveys tenant right now and this was my livelihood I’d be looking for something else. It’s quite clear there is no loyalty and (tenants) will be out on your ear at the end of (their) term. My heart goes out to the team at the Old Dunnings Mill who have based their lives in East Grinstead and are now left with a novice operator with no food skills whatsoever. If I could find the pub in the area I would take (the staff) and set up in competition – you never know this might just happen. As a company, will be boycotting Harveys products from now on. Ironically, I’ve had phone calls from other operators on hearing the news (to say) that will also be boycotting their products. One of my biggest disappointments regarding this matter is that you hear tales in the past of big pub companies treating their tenants in this manner. You would never have expected a regional family owned brewer to behave in such a way, may they hold the head in shame.”
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