The CAMRA Campaigners of the Year Award was presented at the Boot pub to owner Sean Hughes and his campaign colleague Christo Tofalli, who runs the Ye Olde Fighting Cocks. Unfortunately Christo could not attend and Mandy McNeill the Save UK pubs organiser accepted the award on his behalf.
The campaigners formed the Save St Albans Pubs Group in 2017 following a dramatic hike in the business rates bill for many pubs across the city – with one in five St Albans pubs facing an increase of 50%.
In an effort to stop pubs from closing down, the duo set up an online petition and secured the support of local MP Anne Main to help lobby for change. After encouraging both pub owners and pub-goers to write to the Government about the issue, they secured a detailed meeting with Treasury Officials and pushed for a special debate in Westminster Hall on the topic.
Since their campaign has taken off, pub-owners from across the UK have approached the pair for support in setting up a Save UK Pubs network, leading well-known beer writer Roger Protz to nominate them for the Campaigner award.
Presenting the awards Roger Protz said: “Sean and Christo’s efforts to campaign on this important subject are truly inspirational. They’re shining examples of how you don’t need to be well-connected in the halls of Westminster or the head of a large campaign organisation to bring about change. I’m incredibly proud to be a St Albans resident and see my locals campaign on such an important national cause. Roger also highlighted that where Ye Olde Fighting Cocks: increase of 280% to £51,000 a year and The Boot: an increase of 87% to £31,000 a year, whilst the rates on the Sainsbury’s mega store in London Colney have been reduced.”
The Blacksmiths Arms has also had a rates increase of 82% to £51,000 a year. The new Business rates are due for review but as we know the government only seem to be able to deal with one subject at the moment. Save UK Pubs are building a strong case and can show that the rates calculations have been made using incorrect figures and floored calculations.
Photo: Front row Ben Wilkinson, CAMRA National Executive and Pubs Campaign Chairman, Mandy McNeil Organiser of Save UK Pubs and local Liberal Democrat Councillor, Sean Hughes Save UK Pubs Campaign. Back row Steve Bury, Vice Chair South Herts CAMRA and Newsletter Editor, John Bishop South Herts CAMRA and St Albans Beer & Cider Festival Organiser, Roger Protz Beer Writer (who presented the awards), Tom Stainer CAMRA CEO and Raju Kleuters, CAMRA Campaigns Assistant.