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'When you have lost your inns, drown your empty selves. For you will have lost the last of England.'
- Hilaire Belloc

Bonfire boys and girls with pints of Harveys supporting the Friends of the Lewes Arms campaign

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October 2006, November 2006, December 2006

Sussex Express Sussex Express Logo
13 December 2006

Regulars from the Lewes Arms started boycotting their local pub this week in protest at the removal by pub owner Greene King of Harvey's, the local beer, from the bar.

On Tuesday lunchtime, two regulars leafleted those entering the pub and asked them to boycott the pub until the New Year.

The protesters said that they had peacefully turned away almost everyone who headed for the pub, and that all passers-by had expressed support for their campaign. As a result, there remained only a handful of people inside.

The Friends of Lewes Arms, as regulars call themselves, say that the disappearance of the Harvey's, which is brewed a few hundred yards down the road from the Lewes Arms and was voted Champion Best Bitter 2006 by real ale campaigners CAMRA, by pub owner Greene King is destroying the character of their favourite drinking hole.

They also say that the Lewes Arms is a well-known pub that forms an important part of the character of the town, and that it should be selling the local product.

The group further argues that, since Greene King is currently running an advertising campaign urging people to support local pubs, it should support Harvey's.

The Friends are asking people to boycott the pub over the festive season.

Greene King, which a couple of weeks ago was in discussions with local MP Norman Baker over the possibility of Harvey's remaining in the pub's cellars, has stuck to its policy of selling only its own beers, even though Harvey's reportedly outsold Greene beers in the Lewes Arms by four to one.

Local campaigner John May said: "We are some of the people who care about our local and hope to hold Greene King to the high values that they claim to espouse. They can demonstrate this by leaving the Lewes Arms and its Harvey's alone."

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Sussex Express
12 December 2006

Norman Baker MP has today received confirmation that the strenuous efforts of a local campaign group backed by over 1200 local residents to keep Harveys Best Bitter in the Lewes Arms have failed.

Commenting on the outcome, the local MP, who successfully organised two 'stays of execution' for the local beer while Harveys and Greene King discussed alternative arrangements, said:

He said: "I am pleased that I was able to bring the two sides together and encourage some serious dialogue. 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.

"I am bound to say that in my judgement Greene King has ultimately shown themselves to be inflexible and has rejected the olive branches offered.

"I genuinely believe that it is not in their interest to have reached this conclusion and that their standing in Lewes will inevitably be negatively affected by this decision.

"This leaves a very bitter taste in the mouth, but sadly not that of Harveys."

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Sussex Express
23 November 2006

THE possibility of Harveys Bitter remaining at the Lewes Arms pub is hanging by a thread.

The beer is due to be removed by owners Greene King on Sunday.

But discussions are going on in the background. Lewes MP Norman Baker met GK operations director Kris Gumbrell on Friday to try and thrash out a solution.

He also presented Mr Gumbrell with a 1,200-signature petition calling for Harveys to stay at the town centre hostelry.

On Wednesday Mr Gumbrell told the Express: 'We had a very positive meeting with Norman Baker. We are more than happy to consider serving Harveys Bitter as part of a guest ale programme.

'We hope to foster a relationship with Harveys which is of benefit to both breweries.'

Hamish Elder, joint managing director at Harveys, said: 'We are in discussion with Greene King but it is not a simple matter. 'We have asked in the past if we could buy the Lewes Arms and Greene King, at this time, are saying no.'

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Sussex Express
October 27, 2006
Controversial beer is pulled

by John Eccles

Brewer Greene King has decided to withdraw its new beer from the pumps at the Lewes Arms after less than a month in operation. The ale, called Lewes Arms, was introduced to take over from local brew Harveys.

Kris Gumbrell, Greene King operations director, said: "We will be removing the Lewes Arms Bitter following some feedback from customers and the local community."

Some 600 customers have signed a petition, calling for the pub to keep its Harveys. And the plot has again thickened.

Last week Mr Gumbrell said: "We stand by our original decision to remove Harveys ale from the Lewes Arms. This is a commercial decision which we have not taken lightly but understandably, as a leading brewer, we want to showcase our own beers."

But this was followed by a personal letter from GK chief executive Rooney Anand stating that managing director Mark Angela would look further into the matter.

Lewes Arms customer John May said: "I shouldn't imagine they sold very much of their new beer. It's pleasing that Mr Angela is willing to investigate the situation."

Mr May has also written to the Suffolk brewer's asking for a 'gentlemen's compromise'. he said: 'Greene King should recognise the importance of the Lewes Arms to the town as genuine community pub.

'It should recognise that Harvey's Bitter is the preferred brew of the vast majority of the patrons and that removing it would severely damage the numerous community activities that the pub shelters, as the existing clientele would be dispersed as a result."

"Therefore it should be willing, in this specific instance, to continue to serve Harvey's Bitter as a genuine gesture to the community.'

Added Mr May: 'It might then be that Harveys would feel able to stock some Greene King products as a reciprocal gesture. Some form of amicable agreement between the gentlemen of the trade would reflect well on both companies and would save an outstanding community pub.'

Bill Inman, Harveys marketing director said: 'Its a novel suggestion. We will certainly look at it but I can't comment on the outcome.'

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Sussex Express
October 20, 2006

Harveys Brewery has explained why it did not purchase the Beards local chain of pubs six years when it had the chance to do so. It could have crippled the company financially. Greene King made the highest bid and has antagonised Lewes people ever since by withdrawing Harveys beer from sale in virtually all its outlets. The Lewes Arms is the latest former Beards pub to face the axing of its local brew.

This week Barcombe resident Stuart Perry said: 'Would someone please explain to the real ale drinkers of the area why, when the opportunity arose, Harveys failed to purchase the Beards tied house estate, allowing a monster, namely Greene King, into Lewes. While Lewes is still blessed with numerous inns, there are now fewer worth drinking in because of the bland Greene King brews on offer and their uninspiring portfolio of guest ales.'

Greene King bought up 44 pubs in Sussex at a cost believed to be between £35 million and £40 million. Harveys owns 46 pubs but only three in Lewes. Harveys marketing manager Bill Inman said: 'Of course, we wanted the Beards pubs. There were half-a-dozen companies, including ourselves, in the bidding. 'We had a professional valuation. We had arranged for the money to buy the pubs at a valuation we were happy with and could afford. 'The bids were closed. Greene King outbid everyone by making a bid that was 25 per cent over the market valuation.' They paid top dollar. 'We couldn't afford to match that. It could have crippled us. It could have destroyed us.'

*Lewes Arms drinkers have collected a petition containing more than 500 signatures, including that of MP Norman Baker, in a last-ditch attempt to fight the loss of their beloved Harveys.

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Sussex Express
October 16, 2006

ANGRY Lewes Town Council is to invoke a medieval enactment against national brewer Greene King to preserve its sole right to bear and display the town's coat-of-arms.

The brewer has invoked the council's wrath by using the famous armorial arms to sell a new beer with which it intends to replace local brew Harveys at a town centre pub.
Customers at the Lewes Arms are also furious. More than 500 of them have signed a petition calling for their beloved ale to be retained.

Town clerk Steve Brigden this week said: 'We, the council, were granted the sole right by the Monarch Charles 1 in 1634 to bear the coat-of-arms. First of all, we deplore the brewery's action in attempting to withdraw our local beer from the pub in question. We are also using our legal powers to resist the use of the coat-of-arms on the company's new Lewes Arms beer. As far as we are concerned, it is cynical marketing to the detriment of our fine local bitter. If Greene King decline to listen to us, we shall investigate further use of our legal powers to ensure that Lewes' ancient brewing heritage will not be disadvantaged.'

The Mayor, Cllr Merlin Milner, added: 'As a Harveys drinker, I think the brewers should listen to their customers rather than head office. The use of the coat-of-arms as a logo is a disingenuous attempt to lure Harveys customers to their own beer, masquerading as a local brew. 'They must think we are stupid.'

Local customer Andy Gammon said it was he who approached Lewes Town Council when he saw the coat-of-arms on the hand pump. 'I thought there was an issue here that needed to be discussed,' he said. 'Personally, I don't drink the new beer and I have no intention of doing so.'

Greene King was invited to comment but had not done so as the Sussex Express went to press.

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