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October 2006 , December 2006

The ArgusThe Argus Newspaper Logo
Miles Godfrey
14 December 2006

Beer ban leaves bitter taste

A brewery has sparked anger by confirming its decision to ban a traditional Sussex ale from one of its pubs.

Greene King, the Bury St Edmunds based brewing giant, has infuriated drinkers of Harveys, a hugely popular Lewes ale, after banning it from the Lewes Arms in Mount Place, in a bid to bolster sales of its own brands.

The move has resulted in a light-hearted threat by Harveys to buy up pubs in Bury St Edmunds and immediately rid them of all Greene King brands in direct retaliation.

Many regulars of the Lewes Arms pub say they will no longer be able to drink there.

Harveys spokesman, Bill Inman, said: "It has left a lot of people very disappointed and upset. There is talk of picket lines and further protests but the reality is there is very little we can do. Greene King owns the pub and can
run it how they like despite what the people here really want."

One Harveys drinker told The Argus yesterday: "I will never touch a pint of Greene King and to be honest they can go screw themselves."

The ban will start immediately and brings to an end a long-running threat by Greene King to remove Harveys from the pumps at the Lewes Arms, despite a huge campaign to keep it.

More than 1,200 people have signed petitions and voiced protest at the move, and Lewes MP Norman Baker has also attempted to broker a deal.

Yesterday Mr Baker said Greene King's reputation would nosedive in
Lewes and beyond and said the move to ban Harveys in favour of Greene
King's own brands could backfire.

He criticised the brewery for being "inflexible", adding: "There were options which, in my view, would have allowed the local bitter to stay in the Lewes Arms while providing compensatory benefits for Greene Kings but sadly it seems that such an agreement was not possible."

Greene King said a number of options were tried in an effort to preserve the status quo at the Lewes Arms, but none proved acceptable."

Mr Baker summed up the thoughts of hundreds of Harveys drinkers yesterday when he said: "This leaves a very bitter taste in the mouth, but sadly not that of Harveys."

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The Argus
October 27, 2006
Battle over brew turns into revolt

by Andy Chiles

A pub's regulars have been told they will have to go elsewhere if they want locally-brewed ale.

Suffolk-based brewery Greene King has told drinkers at the Lewes Arms, in Mount Place, Lewes, it will not be going back on its plans to stop selling Harveys Best Bitter, despite threats of a boycott.

Greene King operations director Kris Gumbrell said: 'We are committed to this decision and we're going forward with it."

Regulars were up in arms when they found out Harveys would cease to be sold after Christmas. It's the pub's best-selling ale but Greene King, which runs the pub, wants to get rid of it because it is made by Lewes-based rival brewer Harveys.

Fifty drinkers gathered at the Lewes Arms earlier this month to consider how to fight the decision. They warned Greene King they would be willing to take their custom to another pub, where Harveys continues to be sold. Lewes MP Norman Baker and the town's council have both backed the campaign.

Mr Gumbrell said he was confident the pub would continue to be well used. He said: "It would be sad if we lost any of our customers. If they are not happy with the range we have available within the Lewes Arms they will go somewhere else. Only some of the customers want Harveys, not everybody."

He said it was unfortunate there would be more "beer miles" involved in transporting kegs to the pub from its Kent depot. Lewes Arms customers said they were disappointed. John May, a regular who has led the campaign, said he was still hopeful Greene King would change its mind. He has received a letter from the firm's managing director telling him it would continue to investigate the situation.

But another regular Andy Scott said: "I don't know what we'll do if they take Harveys away. I really like the atmosphere here but I would give serious thought to going elsewhere. We feel very strongly about it. Harveys is our local brewery and we want to support it. There is a strong possibility all the regulars could move to another pub together.

The Campaign for Real Ale has been fighting to support Britain's small breweries and said it was disappointed the actions of Greene King seemed to be counter-productive to its efforts.'

Peter Coppard, president of the Brighton and South Downs branch said: "There are a lot of people becoming increasingly unhappy with Greene King. We have always supported them but it is this kind of action which has created bad feeling against them."

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