St Albans publicans named as CAMRA Campaigners of the Year
PUBLISHED: 09:54 08 April 2019 | UPDATED: 09:54 08 April 2019
Two leading St Albans publicans have won the prestigious award of Campaigners of the Year from CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale.
The award, announced at the weekend at CAMRA’s annual conference in Dundee, was in recognition of the campaign by The Boot’s Sean Hughes and Christo Tofalli of Ye Old Fighting Cocks against punitive levels of business rates imposed on the city’s pubs in the 2017 rates review.
Sean and Christo launched Save St Albans Pubs as a result of fears that many of the city’s 50 pubs could close as a result of the rates increases.
Ye Old Fighting Cocks has had its rates increased by 50 per cent to £33,000 a year while The Boot faces an increase of 280 per cent to £51,000 a year.
Other affected pubs include The Six Bells with an increase of 87 per cent to £31,000 a year, The Craft and Cleaver, up 108 per cent to £31,000 and The Blacksmiths Arms, which faces a hike of 82 per cent to £51,000 a year.
To meet these bills, the publicans say they will have collectively to sell an additional 180,000 pints of beer year.
Save St Albans Pubs started as on online petition in The Boot and Ye Old Fighting Cocks and was taken up by other pubs in the city. Following a meeting between Sean, Christo and St Albans MP Anne Main, she arranged a meeting with publicans and Treasury officials where the publicans argued the case for a review of business rates for pubs.
Treasury Minister Robert Jenrick MP asked the publicans to provide an analysis of the national impact of business rates for pubs.
As a result, Save St Albans Pubs has broadened out into a national campaign called Save UK Pubs. With the help of Mandy McNeill of St Albans Taste, Sean, Christo and their supporters have supplied detailed breakdowns of business rates for pubs for a number of other towns and cities.
The two key publicans were nominated for Campaigner of the Year by St Albans-based beer writer Roger Protz, who was backed by the South Herts branch of CAMRA.
Roger said: “The Campaigner of the Year award is fiercely contested and the fact it has gone to Sean and Christo is recognition of their passionate determination to save pubs as hubs of their communities.”