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Pub critic attacks ‘appalling’ bid by bartenders to get column banned

pubspyA regional daily’s pub critic has hit out at a petition by a group of bartenders to get his column banned from the newspaper.

A group calling itself the ‘Brighton Bartenders’ has launched the petition to get the PubSpy column removed from the city’s daily The Argus which as of today has been signed by 184 people.

But the column’s anonymous author has hit back at the move, criticising it on the PubSpy Twitter account as an “appalling attack on free speech.”

It followed an open letter from the group which also calls on Argus editor Arron Hendy to apologise for the “inaccuracies and embellishments of reviews already published” in the column.

The letter is described as coming from “staff, managers, and owners of Brighton’s pubs and bars” in an “industry‐wide condemnation” of the column.

It reads: “We have long embraced the fact that reviews from professional critics and customers alike are part of the hospitality culture. However, it is clear that the Pub Spy is not interested in providing a balanced or even informed review of the establishments he visits, rather he is producing click‐generating content at the expense of these local businesses.

“On several occasions he has lied about events that occurred during a visit (this can be verified by CCTV and staff). In many of the columns he has been primarily concerned with making disparaging, unkind and classist comments about the appearance of customers and staff.

“We charitably hope that you intend these pieces to be satirical, however if that is the case it is not clear, and does not temper the negative effect this ‘journalism’ will have on businesses. If it is the case that your reporter simply wants to write of ‘hilarious’ but fictional encounters that he has had in bars then that is fine, but it should be presented as fiction rather than journalism (we refer you to the IPSO Editors code of practice regarding accuracy).

“This is not simply some light‐hearted fun, the staff who your columnist flippantly and arbitrarily either praises or insults have jobs that are directly affected by this. They work extremely hard to contribute to the vibrant culture of our city and it is hugely insulting and disheartening for them to have their efforts reduced to snippy one liners by a writer who has no interest in providing genuine feedback.”

It then goes on to request an apology and the discontinuation of PubSpy, and demands that if any pieces of a similar style are published in future that the paper should “clearly state that they are not to be considered factual reporting but satire or fiction”.

It concludes: “If these requests are not met, we will instigate a boycott on buying, reading or advertising in The Argus, and will encourage our customers to do so as well.”

HTFP has asked The Argus for a comment on the issue.


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  • April 27, 2017 at 7:32 pm

    Many years ago, in a previous life, I wrote a similar column ‘Barhopper’ which complimented the good in pubs but would slate the bad without mercilessly. I was told by several publicans in my city that it was required reading when it came out on a Friday evening because it would tell it how it was.
    Years after I had moved on, I was dismayed to see it had become little more than a puff piece, an advertisiing feature. I can’t imagine too many rating a review which once said: “My cola tasted excellent!! as part of a saccharine review.
    If Pubspy is telling it as it is, he is to be commended. If however he is playing it smart and nasty for the sake of hits, the publicans, whose livelihoods will be affected, have a point.

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  • April 28, 2017 at 7:35 am

    This paper actually has a’pub critic’?
    No wonder sales are in decline and the public think local papers have lost their appeal
    The answers easy, as the landlords point out, just stop advertising and urge customers to stop buying and they’ll soon act , as we know these days it’s all about £££

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  • April 28, 2017 at 10:53 am

    I’m amazed bar owners, publicans and anyone in Brighton is the slightest bit concerned about the ramblings of an anonymous scribbler.

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  • April 28, 2017 at 2:13 pm

    Where’s the sense in the BA allowing their own pub reviewer to wind up the pub landlords and bar owners of Brighton?
    with advertising hard enough to get as it is I’ll bet the ad reps love him!

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  • April 28, 2017 at 4:01 pm

    A classic case of left hands, right hands

    Who said editorial and ad people need to work together in austere times to stimulate revenue and encourage business ?
    A message that clearlyhasn’t reached Brighton yet by the sounds of it.

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  • April 29, 2017 at 12:21 pm

    The accusation of lying and making stuff up – with claims of CCTV footage to back up their version of events – needs investigation by the Argus. Review the footage and what Pubspy claimed in his column and either sack him or back him.

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