‘Disgraceful’: Hundreds sign petition to keep much-loved landlord in York pub

A popular pub with a popular landlord – the Blue Bell. Photographs: Richard McDougall
3 Sep 2018 @ 6.12 pm
| Business

A lot has happened since we wrote about the plight of the Blue Bell’s landlord, John Pybus.

After our piece appeared two weeks ago, it has been followed up by a report in The Times.

And a petition has been launched calling on the Blue Bell owner, giant pubco Punch Taverns, to withdraw the notice it served on John to terminate his lease and evict him from the pub.

Less than 24 hours after the York branch of Camra (the Campaign for Real Ale) launched it, the petition has gathered 1,500 signatures.

‘Hostile actions’

The reasons why John faces losing the Blue Bell are fully explained in our earlier article.

Essentially, it boils down to this. John exercised his legal right as the tenant of the Fossgate pub to negotiate a fair market rent and opt out of the beer tie, which meant he had to buy all his beer from the pubco at inflated expense.

The fight is on to keep John in the Blue Bell

In response Punch served John with a Section 25 notice to terminate his lease and evict him from the building.

This has caused widespread anger in York and beyond – and brought into sharp spotlight the pubcos’ widespread use of Section 25 notices.

In its petition, York Camra states:

  • We call on Punch to negotiate a new agreement with John, with terms which will allow him to continue his excellent work at this much loved and iconic pub on sustainable terms.

    Your hostile actions towards John have been widely publicised and are well understood, not least by the regular customers who are the source of the majority of the Blue Bell’s revenue, and who have made it very clear that they will not support the pub under the proposed retail agreement.

Many who have signed have left comments expressing their anger at Punch’s action. Shaun Collinge, who runs the multiple-award winning pub The Maltings on Tanners Moat, said simply: “What punch are doing is disgraceful.”

John Pybus and friends in the pub
Another former licensee, Thomas W Burke, said the contracts imposed by pubcos made it “nigh on impossible” for licensees to break even, adding “Punch should hang their heads in shame – at least Dick Turpin wore a mask.”

And Vince McFarland paid tribute to the embattled landlord, saying:

  • John Pybus is one of the most natural pub managers that I have ever known.

    He makes everybody, whether regular or just passing trade, welcome. His knowledge of his trade is second to none and he has succeeded in every pub I have known him run.