Lords' final decision on beer ties is not the last word

27 July 2006
Lords' final decision on beer ties is not the last word

A former publican's final defeat at the end of a 13-year legal battle does not conclusively resolve the dispute over beer ties, according to a legal expert.

Bernie Crehan, who ran the Phoenix and Cock Inn pubs in Staines, Middlesex, launched his original action in 1993 when his businesses failed. But last week the House of Lords reversed a decision by the Court of Appeal that found in his favour and against the Inntrepreneur Pub Company.

The Court of Appeal had ruled that English law on competition should be superseded by European competition law, but the House of Lords has now overturned that ruling.

The Lords' decision meant the end for Crehan's attempt to prove that beer ties - under which a publican agrees to buy beer from a designated supplier as part of their lease - breach European competition law.

However, Ioannis Alexopolus, head of litigation at DLA Piper's London office, said: "It does not clear up whether beer ties are permissible under European competition law. Other challenges could still follow."

Crehan had claimed that his beer tie, forced on him through landlord Inntrepreneur with brewer Courage in the late 1980s, not only made the price of his beer uncompetitive but had broken European competition law.

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