Fishy Tales

13 November 2006

Bitter Words from Greene King

A fine example of the kind of doublespeak you get from governments and corporations these days is Greene King's statement that it wants to "provide its customers with greater choice" by removing the much-loved Lewes-brewed beer Harvey's Best from the much-loved Lewes local the Lewes Arms.

What Greedy King means by these words, of course, is that it wants to ignore an 80% Arms' customer choice and impose its own will by stocking its own choice of beers. It's very much dictatorship rather than democracy. Yes, we get thrown the sop that Harvey's may appear as a Guest Ale from time to time if we're good boys and girls, but that, too is a slimy political move that postpones protest until it's too late.

I dearly hope - as should Greede King - that the pub doesn't shed so many of its key regulars for enough of the time that its viability as a real community pub (which, incidentally, raises a great deal for local charities) is affected. But I have to note that my own winter attendance at the pub was reduced significantly by the loss of Harvey's Old soon after Greene King took over, and the fact is that the exceptionally good pint of Harvey's Best served at the Arms is inextricably tied up with my perceptions of the pub. It's also a bit relevant that I think Greene King's standard ales these days barely qualify as real ales in terms of character and interest. They've been homogenised for the mass market.

The whole grisly story is summarised by the superbly well-run Lewes Arms blog or, of course, the Lewes Arms website.

26 March 07:
I'm fairly pleased to note progress of the campaign to reinstate Harvey's at the Arms after a few months. There has been a boycott of the pub which has seriously impacted on sales there, but at the same time (and most importantly in my opinion) most of the pub's many activities are continuing "in exile". The Lewes Arms Community is alive, well and drinking Harvey's elsewhere until either Greene King sees the light on the road to Damascus or the Arms is passed on to more sensible owners.

Greene King is still receiving a constant trickle of negative publicity as a result of its inflexibility, capped recently by articles in the Guardian and the Publican. I also note that a Google for Greene King now produces a negative hit down the bottom of the first page of results. Also the situation at the Arms is summarised on Wikipedia's entry for Greene King which although completely verifiable and objective doesn't put GK in a good light.

Feet and guns come to mind. And even in a hard-nosed business sense Greene King's strategy up to now has proved a real loser. Time to reassess and regroup, which may be part of the thinking behind the Greene King restructure . Well, we can hope!

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