UKs largest pub owner Ei agrees to give tenants support

Closed pub

The country’s biggest pub owner has promised more support for tenants after criticism from MPs.

Ei Group, which used to be known as Enterprise Inns and is now part of the Stonegate Pub Company, acted after MPs were “dismayed” with the lack of support offered to the group’s pubs despite pressure from the industry regulator for landlords to ensure tenants made it through the pandemic.

Simon Longbottom, Stonegate’s chief executive, was told that the company’s policy of only offering rent deferrals would mean “many pubs would end up closing permanently”.

“We urgently call on you to offer a rent holiday, or an equivalent level of support of some other kind, to all pubs in your group,” the MPs, who include Iain Duncan Smith, Tim Farron and Andrew Mitchell, wrote. “Supporting your tenants now will ensure they are still there after this crisis is over, and save you having to go through the administration and costs of finding alternative tenants.”

After the letter was published Stonegate said that it would be providing a “multimillion-pound support package” for tenants but it did not say exactly how much.

Tenants who have received government grants of £10,000 or £25,000 will be given trade credits worth either three quarters or half of their rent between April and June.

Fees related to fixtures and fittings and being released from the tie — an obligation to buy products and services from landlords — will be cancelled for the period, Stonegate said. Any pub that did not get a grant would be given a three-month rent holiday.

This month the Pubs Code Adjudicator told companies to ensure “as far as possible that every tenant is able to return to trading and profitability” when restrictions ease. Pubs generally have no income because their doors are closed and there are fears that rent deferrals could leave them with unsustainable debt. A Forum of Private Business survey of 560 publicans suggested that even if pubs were allowed to reopen next month, four out of ten would be in a financial position to do so.