The Punch Tenant Network (PTN), an independent group that represents Punch's publicans, has made an appeal to Pubs Code Adjudicator Paul Newby to give guidance on whether the bid would trigger the Pubs Code, which was introduced in July 2016 to open up a market-rent only option as a legal right to tied pub tenants.
A market-rent only option would allow Punch's publicans to cut supply ties with Heineken. However, the option is not available in Scottish pubs. Tenants can apply for the option during rent reviews or renewals, if supply prices are hiked or if it's directly related to a change in the imposed tie.
"It seems inconceivable that a bid of this magnitude could get to this point without being publicly clarified in detail," said Chris Lindesay, coordinator of the PTN, which was created in 2014 in response to lack of communication during Punch's refinancing negotiations.
With access to as many as 300 national ales and lagers and hundreds more from smaller breweries, Punch's tenants are able to develop unique offerings based on local demand and style, Lindesay said.
PTN fears Heineken's limited number of own-brand products, which include Foster's lager and Strongbow cider, will dash out any pub individuality.
On average, 85 per cent of offerings at Heineken's Star Pubs & Bars are own-brands, however, it is not a figure that's imposed across the pubs.
A spokesperson for Heineken said, “We have consistently said that we start with what is right for each pub, and we will work with licensees to ensure they have the right drinks offer to suit the specific needs of each pub.”
Punch shareholders will meet on 10 February to vote on the proposed takeover bid of 1,900 pubs.