This chapter is divided into two main sections. The first one provides an overview of the UK public house retailing sector as it was at the turn of the 1990s; given the key themes of the book, we concentrate upon the DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) Beer Orders of 1989 and the industry response. The second main section reviews key changes and developments in the sector during the 1990s, focusing upon the changing socio-economic context, market size and trends, changing consumer preferences, pubs and brands, food-led versus wet-led outlets, and investment. A short case study is also presented in this section in order to illustrate some of the points being made.
As a result of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission (MMC) report into the pub retailing sector, published in 1989, and the subsequent recommendations and requirements of the ‘Department of Trade and Industry Beer Orders’, dramatic changes took place in the sector in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The Commission concluded that ‘a complex monopoly situation exists in favour of the brewers with tied estates and loan ties…restric(ting) competition at all levels’, and leading to ‘serious public interest detriments’ (Monopolies and Mergers Commission 1989:4). Any brewer owning more than 2,000 on-licensed premises (hotels, restaurants and pubs) had (before November 1992) either to stop brewing, or sell, or lease free from any tie, half of the pubs they owned above the 2,000 limit the DTI imposed. Also, all national brewers would have to allow a cask-conditioned guest ale into their tenancies and free trade loan accounts. Crompton has commented:
The tied-house system was an exceptionally well-established and relatively unusual feature of the British beer trade. In the political climate of the mid-1980s, it could no longer expect to be tolerated simply because of its antiquity. It was already dependent for its legal existence on block exemptions granted