Open letter from Harvey’s to the people of East Hoathly

Harvey’s greatly regret being unable to attend the public meeting on 5th October, but this has not been possible at such short notice. However, we would appreciate the following response to recent reactions to The Foresters Arms closure being noted.

Harvey’s has always supported community pubs.  In recent years we developed something of a reputation as a “White Knight’ acquiring the last pub in a village.   However Harvey’s does not operate these pubs.  For that, we must find a  tenant publican who is prepared to invest in the business.  Such a person must run a professional, orderly pub in return for a profit from the provision of hospitality.  The Foresters Arms, (which has always struggled to appeal to such tenants, due to its marginal trading  prospects)  has on the latest occasion failed completely to attract any realistic interest during the 6 month tenancy marketing period.

Harvey’s has not closed The Foresters Arms,  we simply cannot find an operator prepared to continue running it with adherence to tenant legal and compliance requirements.   We have always disclosed all known trading performance and liabilities, however code regulations today also insist that we scrutinize a tenant’s business plan.

The reasons for The Foresters Arms unviability are manifold but in essence break down into 5 points,  any one of which would deter a prospective publican but collectively mean a trading prospect is unrealistic:

  1. The Foresters recent turnover income has been approximately half the figure needed to break even,  presenting  losses unsustainable to any tenant;
  2. Tenant’s compliance regulations require a cumulative investment  sum of approximately £50,000 …. mostly relating to the tenant’s trade kitchen operation;
  3. East Hoathly is a residential community without visitor attractions, local industry etc. Any hospitality trade is dependent on this local spend which, not only has been in decline, but also has been split between two pubs;
  4. Changes to the configuration of the village have not favoured commerce, the 1990’s bypass drew away any passing trade and the recent decision not to expand the village means there is no prospect in increasing local customer footfall; and
  5. The National trend of changing social behaviour, from home entertaining, the internet and social media means people simply don’t use pubs in the way they did a generation ago.

We all love to have a pub down the road, but if it is not used it cannot remain in business.

Fortunately in this instance East Hoathly has a couple of advantages

  1. The village has another pub (many villages have none);
  2. Being a sensitive community business, Harvey’s as the owners of The Foresters Arms are not seeking an intensive or unsightly  housing development, only the most sensitive conversion back to the building’s original use as a dwelling.  Indeed, no sale is even proposed.

Some  questions  and responses that should be put to the meeting

What would be the outcome, if The Foresters Arms were to continue trading ?

If by some miracle, The Foresters Arms were to appeal to  a very well financed operator who was able to attract enough village business to return a modest profit, (at roughly 3 times the trading activity of recent years;)   two things would soon become apparent.

  1. South Street traffic/ parking problems and neighbourhood noise complaints would become daily issues. Remember, the pub would become relatively busy compared to previous years.
  2. The Kings Head would be placed in the same financial predicament as The Foresters Arms is today.

Would an ACV somehow force the pub to remain open?

Definitely not.  In the event of a freehold sale for development purposes, (which is not proposed here),  an ACV gives a local community an opportunity to organize raising funds to make an offer to purchase the amenity.   However, even when such a sale is proposed,  there is no obligation to accept a community offer and the pub would remain closed during any extended interim period.   Therefore, in almost every case, an ACV status becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy for a dilapidated site which will ultimately become a larger development.  There are dozens of such examples across the region.

The Foresters Arms served its last pint in April this year.  Does  the low level of objection throughout the summer not demonstrate the point about declining local demand?

Harvey’s received directly and indirectly less than 2 dozen communication enquiries through the summer period about the pubs closure.

How can East Hoathly ensure its local interests ?

The people of East Hoathly should recognize the village’s demographic configuration and its realistic economic potential.  Importantly, working with the licensee at The Kings Head to ensure the pub is used to a viable level.

Response in full: https://www.harveys.org.uk/foresters-east-hoathly/

We are happy to answer all enquiries regarding The Foresters. If you wish to make an enquiry please use our contact form here: https://www.harveys.org.uk/contact/contact-us/.

Hamish Elder
Executive Chairman
Harvey’s Brewery