The small town of Lewes, England (population @16,000) is located near the southern coast, due south from London in the district of East Sussex. It’s also home to Harvey’s Brewery, which has been there along the Ouse River since the late 1700s. According to an e-mail I received from Florrie, a Lewes resident, Greene King‘s Pub Company, which bought the Lewes Arms eight years ago, has dropped local brewer Harvey’s from the pub. A website has been set up by the “Friends of the Lewes Arms” to help bring back the local beer to the local pub. Here’s what the locals have to say:
The Friends of the Lewes Arms are campaigning to have Harveys beer, brewed in Lewes, restored to their local pub.
Greene King own the pub and after eight years of failing to sell their own beers in competition with Harveys defied the regulars by withdrawing Harveys completely. This was despite a 1,200-signature petition and a campaign led by the local MP, Norman Baker, and the Town Mayor, Merlin Milner.
The campaign includes a successful boycott which has cut trade to a fraction of previous levels. Volunteers maintain a vigil outside the pub at what used to be peak times.
We continue to appeal to Greene King to restore Harveys to the Lewes Arms and save the remarkably diverse group which used the pub as a communal living room.
As recently as last November, the Lewes Arms was a vibrant, quirky pub, crammed to the rafters at busy times and no doubt highly profitable.
The campaign has nothing to do with the company which brews Harveys. It has everything to do with local communities, genuine local pubs, and consumer choice and all things Greene King claims to support.
We are keen to make contact with other pubs and communities who feel they have suffered at the hands of Greene King, for whatever reason.
The Harveys Brewery in Lewes.
|This is one of the reasons that the landscape of authentic British pubs is fast becoming a distant memory. The tied house system that exists in the UK is undermining communities and diversity. It makes perfect sense that a small town would want to support one of their local businesses by drinking their beer. Undoubtedly Harvey’s employs a number of the local residents and pours money back into the local economy. That a large corporation could care less about that is an unfortunate facet of our modern business-dominated society. One has to wonder why Greene King cannot understand the local loyalties at work here and accept that fact as a part of doing business in a town with a local brewery.|
Or perhaps they can indeed understand it but ignore it in the drive for ever more growth and profits as irrelevant. But it’s this very insistence of profits before people that so undermines what’s really important in our world. I think it’s a sad fact that most people see work as a necessary evil that must be done to further more important ends, such as putting food on the table, raising and educating their children, and putting a roof over their heads. Few people, I think, truly love what they do for a living. It may be a cliche, but it’s still true that nobody ever said on their deathbed that they wished they’d spent more time at the office. Yet business increasingly sets the agenda of how are lives are shaped and managed in a bewildering array of ways.
Otherwise, how is it possible that an entire community, including the local government, can come together and make their wishes known only to have them completely ignored by a business entity wanting to business in that community? It’s not as if the pub wasn’t profitable (at least according to what I’ve read), but as far as I can tell, Greene King simply wanted to make more money by offering only their own beer instead of having to buy the Harvey’s locally. Plus, their own beer hadn’t been selling in the pub, either, which was undoubtedly costing them money in spoilage. Now a smart Publican might think the way to run a successful business is to offer the products that his customer wants. But I guess that’s not the British way and it’s certainly not the corporate way. Greene King is large enough that they could just shut down the pub rather than give in to local pressure. And the Friends of the Lewes Arms acknowledges that possibility, too. I think it says something about how askew our priorities are that Greene King’s hegemony is more important than customer happiness which leads to profitability. It simply isn’t enough that Greene King turn a profit, they have to do it the way they want to, everyone else be damned. And I’m certain Greene King is well with their legal rights, because the court system favors business, too. Corporate citizenship is as much a joke in the UK as it is here, hollow words bandied about to get positive PR whenever necessary. But the longer we forget that corporations are made up of people and hold them as accountable as we would would anyone else, the more frequently these sort of incidents will become.
The Friends of the Lewes Arms website has many suggestions on how to help them in their struggle and includes links to the many ties their plight has been chronicled by the British press.
Local residents outside their local, the Lewes Arms.