A publican last week won more than £131,000 in damages after a court ruled his beer-tie to Inntrepreneur had breached EU competition law.
The landmark ruling could have dramatic consequences for 600 similar cases waiting to be heard.
Rupert Crehan, who ran two pubs in Staines, Middlesex, between 1991 and 1993, claimed the terms of his beer-ties to landlord Inntrepreneur meant he was unable to compete and eventually led to the demise of his business.
Damages were awarded to compensate for the money invested by Crehan in the business and for the loss of profit caused by the high beer prices during the time he was open, plus interest.
"This case is a warning to today's pub companies that if you don't give tenants a fair deal something as catastrophic as this could happen," said Rupert Croft of law firm Maitland Walker, which acted for Crehan. Croft stressed that the ruling wouldn't necessarily signal an avalanche of similar claims, however. "The difference in economic conditions and better deals for tenants today mean similar cases are unlikely," he said.
Inntrepreneur is believed to be intending to counter-appeal.
- Punch Taverns this week appointed a top law firm to prepare an independent report investigating the relationship between pub companies and their tenants.
EU and competition specialist Maitland Walker will prepare the report for the Trade and Industry Select Committee and details of the findings will be revealed next week.
Punch chief executive Giles Thorley said it would "assist us in making a representative response to the select committee by taking on board the views of other interested parties".
Source: Caterer & Hotelkeeper magazine, 27 May - 2 June 2004