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.”
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.