PICA-Service Panel Hearings

A further PICA-Service panel hearing took place at Queen’s House, 55-56, Lincolns Inn Fields, London, on Tuesday, 10th September, 2013. This was followed by a preliminary hearing involving a separate case.

The respondents at the full hearing were Punch Partnerships (PTL) Limited. The complainants, who have agreed to being named, were Capital Fare Limited of the King’s Arms, Lockerley, Hampshire.

His Hon Judge Trevor Barber chaired the hearing. The panel was made up of a pubtenant and former president of a tenant’s licensed victuallers body, a specialist accountant to the licensed trade, a retired pub tenant and past chair of the licensed trade charity, a partner in a specialist firm of licensing lawyers and a managing director of a company operating pubs and pub restaurants both as tenants and freeholders.

Capital Fare Limited’s complaint was led by the issue of a lack of accurate information afforded by the respondents, concerning drainage services to licensed premises when the complainants made an application to be tenants. The complaint also addressed subsequent dealings with Punch Partnerships concerning the following; issues relating to the standard of the car park at the subject premises; issues concerning chimney repairs and the manner in which they were attended to; communication and timeline issues; electrical issues and back rent issues.

The last two issues were settled between the parties prior to the hearing date. The decision of the PICA-Service panel was delayed owing to the need for further investigation that were required after the hearing date. The panel found, from the evidence presented, that Punch Partnerships had committed technical breaches of its code of practice in respect of:-

1 A failure to exercise due diligence in terms of ascertaining and communicating details of the sewage system at the complainants’ premises. The respondents, as a result of this, had not provided its tenants with the reasonable information needed in order to decide whether to take the tenancy and in order to implement a workable business plan.

2 A failure to provide an efficient repairs and maintenance service.

The PICA-Service panel also found, from the evidence presented, that the respondents had committed breaches of the spirit of its code of practice in terms of the standard of its communication with its tenants. The complainants were awarded an undisclosed level of damages. Costs were awarded against the respondents and the complainants were invited to present a claim for its own costs in pursuing their complaint.

Preliminary hearing

A separate preliminary hearing took place to enable the panel, again chaired by Judge Barber, to give consideration to whether the PICA-Service could progress a complaint lodged by A and P Inns Company Ltd, who again have agreed to be named, against Enterprise Inns to a full hearing.

The case concerned the Black Horse, Sevenoaks, Kent. The panel were provided with a complaint document prepared by the tenant company and Enterprise’s response.

The panel decided that from the evidence produced there was a lack of understanding between the parties as to the basis of a surrender agreement between them. The matter had become a legal issue. Paragraph 8.5 of the PICAService procedure paper details that the panel does not have the power to determine points of law. If disputes of a legal nature are identified the administrators to PICA-Service should cease proceedings until these have been clarified and resolved by the parties or the courts.

The parties were advised that in order to obtain such clarification the matter should be referred to the courts for judgment. The complaint could not proceed to a PICAService hearing unless the courts ruled that this was not precluded by the prior agreement existing between parties.

More information about PICA-Service PICA-Service comes within the auspices of the Pub Governing Body having been formed by six of the industry’s leading associations:

• The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers

• The British Beer & Pub Association

• The British Institute of Innkeeping

• The Federation of licensed Victuallers Associations

• The Brighton & Hove Licensee Association

• The Guild of Master Victuallers

The mandate of PICA-Service is to deal with technical breaches or breaches of the spirit of the industry framework code of practice, or breaches of individual pub company and (pub-owning) brewery codes of practice, occurring after 30th June 2010 – the date the framework code came into effect.

The PICA-Service panel comprises independent experts made up of a diverse group of individuals including a circuit judge, a member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, accountants, solicitors, chartered surveyors, licensed trainers, pub tenants and retired pub tenants, plus brewery and retired brewery executives.

More details are available on the PICA-Service website including how complaints should be lodged.

The PICA-Service website address is: www.picaservice.com

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