My name is Angelique. This is my story.

A little over four years ago my husband and I bought the Royal Oak in Blisworth, Northampton. At the time I was a nurse and my husband was a soldier. We knew little about the pub trade but were happy to learn and we believed that this was the perfect opportunity to build a future for ourselves and our three beautiful children – a future that didn’t involve my husband risking his life everyday fighting on the front line in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The pub was owned by Enterprise Inns and although it was in desperate need of repair, we managed to borrow some money and this together with our savings, we managed to scrape together the £70k we needed to purchase the lease. The rent was £48k a year which did seem a little high, but the turnover figures we were given seemed to show that with a lot of hard work the business could work.

It didn’t take us long to realise that we had been conned. The pub wasn’t turning over anything like the previous tenants figures suggested and almost from the off we knew we were going to struggle. As I waived my husband off for what was supposed to be his last tour of Afghanistan, both he and I knew it wouldn’t be the last time I would be doing this. It turned out that way too – it wasn’t long before he was getting on that plane again. Even now, over four years later, he is still in Afghanistan and we can’t see a way for our family to be together.

With three children to raise and a unsustainable pub to run I tried hard to make ends meet. I was cleaning, serving drinks, taking in deliveries and working around 80 hours a week to keep the pub open and all the while wondering if my husband would return home safely.

The rent was just too much and the cost of beer was extortionate but Enterprise Inns refused to help. Over the next two years I had three different Enterprise business managers who bullied, threatened and intimidated me. They kept telling me I would lose the pub if I didn’t pay the rent and all the while it was my husband who was sending across money so that I could pay Enterprise and stop them from throwing my family out of the pub. It was an awful time. It still upset’s me now.

There was so much work to do in the pub and we had to fund it all ourselves. The roof was leaking, the heating system didn’t work, the walls in the upstairs apartment were rotten and all the windows needed replacing. The place was a mess. My son’s bedroom was a death trap. We just couldn’t afford to do the repairs and my son was constantly ill. I was truly on my own and my husband was still sending money to pay the rent. Everyday brought the added stress of not knowing if I would be a widow by the end of the day. They knew about my son’s illness but still they refused to help.

I was offered an Enterprise business recovery plan but it came with a catch. They gave me a small rent concession in exchange for tieing me in for more products. The problem was it actually cost me more money. I limped through a couple of these plans before my husband said no more. They lasted about 12 weeks each time and I was no better off on any of them. At one point I worked out that a bottle of cider from Bookers cost about 74p but when tied into Enterprise it cost me £1.92. My business recovery plan with Enterprise was never going to work.

I was placed on stop many times by credit control which means you can’t get any beer and because of the tie you’re not allowed to buy it anywhere else. They force you by beer at ridiculous prices and when you owe them money they stop you from buying it from another supplier. It’s such a ridiculous situation. What good is a pub without beer?

I did buy out on a couple of occasions, I didn’t have a choice – they wouldn’t release my beer order because I owed them rent. I told them I was going to do it because I wasn’t going to let them take the pub off me. I couldn’t. I owed too much money.

They came down to the pub each time I told them I had bought out and each time they fined me. On one occasion they accused me of buying two cases of beer from another supplier. I hadn’t and they knew as much but they still fined £150 a case.

Eventually they realised I was an easy target, a payer if you like and they came down to the pub with some colourful brulines charts. It was a busy Friday night and I was on my own behind the bar. I was told that I had bought out of tie and they were going to take the pub from me and throw my family out on the street. I was frightened and confused and I tried to tell them that they were wrong. They wouldn’t listen and my customers were watching. They made me sign a letter agreeing to pay their £2,500 fine. I wanted them out of the pub I had little choice; I wanted the man to stop. I didn’t read the letter but they told me that it gave them the authority to throw me out of the pub if they caught me buying out again. It was an awful experience and one I will never forget, Enterprise knew the pub was in trouble yet they sent in a bully to intimidate a mother with three children and take more money. Money I didn’t have.

Not long after, with the pub only selling a couple of products as I couldn’t afford to buy stock, Enterprise offered to buy my fixtures and fittings in order to release cash so that I could pay off some bills. I owed fortunes to the VAT man and PAYE, and the gas and electric companies were hours away from cutting me off. Enterprise said that I could use the cash for whatever I wanted and we could buy the furniture back over a period of time.

My husband and I thought long and hard about this as we were now wise to the fact that every time Enterprise Inns walked through the door it would cost us more money. We eventually agreed. We had little choice.

Our furniture was valued and an amount agreed. Over the next couple of weeks we waited for the money but it never came. At my wits end and sick with worry I finally called Enterprise to find out where the money was. They told me they had used it to pay another buying out fine – something I knew nothing about. They had made the whole thing up. I broke down and cried right in front of my children. They didn’t understand why and I couldn’t explain. I will remember their frightened faces until the day I die.

The fine was £2,500 which meant there was still money left over. I asked if I could have it but again they refused. Over the coming weeks Enterprise used it to secure their rent. Rent at full rate and rent I couldn’t afford. I couldn’t pay my VAT bill and I was worried sick. I was permanently ill, completely exhausted and extremely low. My mental condition was not good. I wasn’t eating or sleeping and I thought of taking my life. How dare they do this to me.

Eventually, with no money, no life to speak off and a pub with no beer I closed the Royal Oak for good. I called Enterprise and told them they had beaten me and I couldn’t take anymore.

That was a little over two years ago and the whole experience has cost my husband and me all of our life savings. From start to finish Enterprise Inns took away my sanity my dignity and over £250,000 – everything that my husband and I had ever worked for.

On the day my husband received his Army Pension after 19 years of service we spent every penny of that £9000 in seven minutes, paying bills that were left over from the Enterprise tied pub.

I couldn’t be a mother to my three beautiful young children during those few years and I hate myself for that. A year later and we have nothing left, no pension, no savings, no collateral in our family home, just a huge pile of debt.

When we left the pub Enterprise Inns pursued us for a further £43k – money they alleged they had lost in income, further fines for buying out and fixtures and fittings. A lie right to the end because they had already taken the furniture.

In court the judge ruled that we could keep our family home. He said that I had suffered enough and I should be allowed to sleep in my own bed.

At least I am safe and happy now and living an ordinary life even if I am surrounded by debt. I have CCJ’s and court orders all over the place and it will take the rest of my working life to pay it off. I have gone back to being a nurse. My crime in this story is I wanted to have a successful business and a better life for my family.

My husband and I have no real future to look forward to as we use all of our money to pay off our debts. I don’t think we will ever see an end to this. Almost two years later I try hard to forget but the pain is still there.

Please don’t let this happen to anyone else ever again.

Angelique Elliott

Ex-Landlady of The Royal Oak, Blisworth

Fair Deal For Your Local

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29 comments on “My name is Angelique. This is my story.
  1. My sympathies… Punch are no better as I can attest…

  2. PJ says:

    The saddest thing is that Angelique is not alone and Enterprise inns are still,doing this to people. Tuppen cares not for those he has in his web of lies & deceit, he cares only for his own pocket –> http://gregmulholland.org/en/article/2012/572852/stop-large-pubcos-rewarding-themselves-for-failure-mulholland
    My only advice to people with money or a dream….. don’t invest in any “Tied Pub business”.

  3. adele says:

    That’s terrible feel sorry for you and your family a few pubs have shut where I live and guess who they were tied to and they been there since I was small now I’m 54 truly discusting

  4. Big Mike says:

    Dear Angelique,

    What you and your family have been through is an absolute disgrace and should not be legal. These property companies are simply bullies who extort money from you and make you afraid to go against them. I feel so sorry for you.

    Although I have no experience in the pub trade I am a massive ale fan and recently wrote an article on my blog about this. See http://www.bigmikesrealale.com

    I sincerely hope that you manage to have a brighter future.

    Take care,

    Mike (a.k.a Big Mikes Real Ale)

  5. Diane Wharmby says:

    Angelique.

    I am so sorry to hear what you have went through with Enterprise it is disgusting, it is time they big Pub Companies were stopped this is all wrong, I am a landlady myself and know exactly what you are going through, let’s hope their day will soon be here. Take care of you and your family.

    Diane x

  6. Jellybrain says:

    As a publican tied to the pubco web of lies and dishonesty, I really feel for you and what you have gone through. You are not alone and we are all grateful that you have been able to share your story and bring your plight to the masses.

  7. […] I do not often repost links, but this piece summarises why so many publicans are arguing in favour of reform: https://pubaliciouspubs.wordpress.com/2013/06/14/my-name-is-angelique-this-is-my-story/ […]

  8. Sheedomi says:

    Punch and Enterprise do not
    Make beer so they have no real interest in selling beer. They have overseen the closure of thousands of their own pubs. They prefer property speculation and development to generate quick bucks. Free trade is the only way to go. We can buy our stock from artisan brewers and other stock from supermarkets so on a small turnover we can pay all our bills and stay open for our club members.

  9. Carl says:

    Good God! How did you carry on so long? My family ran a Punch pub for nearly 12 years until we gave them the keys in January 2012. The whole of your story echoes our experiences . We thought of suicide in 2011. We lost some £200,000 and our home. In 2005 and 2006 we were “flying”, then the recession started mid 2007. In 2008 we fell off a cliff like so many small businesses throughout the UK. Re-mortgaged the house just to catch up with some of the bills. This was complete lunacy. One of us cashed the largest of private pension pots to help. Again what lunacy. Tried anything in the hope that things would improve.
    Yes our plight mirrored yours. No doubt so many more would say the same.
    The pub has now been leased to a Coffee chain at double the rent.
    Punch are in dire straits-GOOD, We sincerely hope they go down. Very sorry that this would be the end for so many more lease holders-but surely it would be an act of mercy in putting them out of their misery.
    SO SO Sorry Angelique xx.

  10. Steve says:

    This is appalling – the tactics used by Enterprise are no more than simple bullying and intimidation! How the hell can it be legal to extort people like this?!

    Can I ask though, did you ever try and take any action against the previous tenants who clearly inflated their figures so you would buy the lease from them? As you say, they conned you in to taking out the lease and while Enterprise certainly aren’t faultless, it’s horrible to think that there are other tenants out there doing this to people!

  11. we’re waiting patiently until the time is right to release our story in as much detail as this.. heartfelt sympathies from all at The Owl at Rodley (a successful pub ruined by tyrannical practices undertaken by Enterprise Inns)

    • Eric Melvin says:

      Hi angelique I am saddened to hear your story. I had a pub hotel with enterprise inns in 2005 and I am still paying debts and have ccj’s ihhdue to the pub co witholding lease and selling pub to prime tower … please contact me maybe we can persue compensation or at least die trying. Regarfs eric j melvin.

    • Eric Melvin says:

      Hi I will tell you about my story too when I get time…. but for now I will say I have been seeking a way to get justice and there seems be no one who can help, I did contact rip off britain and spoken to them on phone for 45 mins and yet I await reply. .. also in house of commons they are debating the legislation of ‘ our commitment to you’ I hope that if this is deemed as a terms and conditions and a legal binding contract maybe just maybe we can persue them through this ( ie PPI)

  12. […] The fundamental problem is that the large companies take more than is fair or sustainable from pub profits. This makes it difficult or impossible for many licensees to make a living and has and is causing the failure of pub businesses up and down the country. The overcharging takes the form of both hugely inflated beer prices and excessive rents.  The result was summarised, in the words of a publican, here: https://pubaliciouspubs.wordpress.com/2013/06/14/my-name-is-angelique-this-is-my-story/ […]

  13. Jolly says:

    Dear Angelique,
    The more I have read about your story the more I feel tempted to ignore a business proposal to lease a pub from enterprise inns.
    Sometimes we have to follow our gut instincts towards a business and mine has favoured me yet. I would like to know why could you not take them to the court if you have done nothing wrong and why there is no authority or a governing body in this country which can tame some of these fowl players.
    As much as I can sympathise with you, I strongly feel a strong lawyer with the right inputs could do much to help you and probably reward compensation if you feel that there has been harassment and bullying and malpractice which has been involved from the other end. Clearly you were at fault with the place at a few ends but at the same time this should not mean that anyone can force you into a situation from being a happy life to the present misery.
    I strongly feel if you take support of the justice system there will be some place and some loophole which will help you to recover your confidence and morale.
    With hopes for a better future for you and your family.

  14. keithpp says:

    Reading this story is tragic and heart-breaking, and should be obligatory reading for anyone thinking of taking on a tied pub. You will be bled to death, then when your life and livelihood has been destroyed, you are kicked out and made homeless.

    If you do no own anything, and you still owe bastards Enterprise money, I suggest seek legal advice on declaring yourself bankrupt.

    What you describe is happening to pub landlords up and down the country. People who do not know what they are letting themselves in for, are being robbed of their life savings.

    Ten days ago, Enterprise sent the bailiffs into The Alma in Newington Green in Islington. Kirsty Valentine had worked a decade to turn around a failing pub. The thanks she gets is to see her businesses destroyed by Enterprise.

    Your experience exposes the lie, that pubs are failing due to bad landlords.

    I was aware of pubcos charging overinflated rents, forcing landlords to buy drinks through the pubcos at above market rent, but I was not aware of this levying of ‘fines’.

    What we are seeing is anti-competitive practices.

    Well actually worse. What we are seeing is a Mafia operation, extortion.

    Pubs have to be stripped from pubcos, run as free houses or owned and run by the local community.

    Death of the English pub

    • Eric Melvin says:

      Enterprise inns stitched me up took 50k & left me 70k in debt … they offered a lease so I spent all my capital… 8 months later … they say lease withdrawn due to property developers putting in an offer for the freehold… can I run pub until planning is agreed or declined. … I shut pub and they fine me 13k for loss of profits…. as I held over wanting my money back and got evicted. .. this was 2006 and o be damned if I give up trying to nail these con men.. bunch of @#$/x

  15. Mark Wardle says:

    HI

    Sorry to hear this news, it is not new. I have like so many others been shafted by Punch in my stupidity thought Enterprise may be different. 6 months in I have just made a formal complaint about a bully of an RM and lets see what happens. Not a great deal as normal!

    I hope times get better for you

    M

  16. tigger111 says:

    This is awful to read and I am so sorry to read you went through this . We ran pubs in the late 90’s with the then Pubmaster and we weren’t too bad but got out while we could , it took a lot of fighting corners and getting fixed rents and asking for help and insisting on things, luckily the area manager was a good person . I would never take a tied pub on again and doubtful i would even do freehold ,unless to covert to a nice Blues bar as we need one in the area but then it would be me really thinking about it so probably doubtful.
    Is there nothing you can do legally to reclaim some of that money ? small claims or unfair treatment of some discription ? an official complaint to a pub type ombudsman if there is such a thing. I am a little clueless on these things these days as 13 yrs ago i last was in the trade . Is there nothing .? so awful.
    All the best for your future and well done for sharing x

  17. Marie says:

    Exactly the same experience I had with Enterprise. Inflated figures, impossible rent, bruline figures misinterpred to justify fines, money transferred between accounts without agreement, beer stopped and more fines levied, still dealing with debts 5 years later. There is no legal recourse. The fines are in the lease and by the time the pubco is finished bullying and intimidating you won’t have a penny for lawyers. The Bii isnt interested either. It’s worth repeating, don’t get involved .

  18. katy says:

    wanting to no how to get out of enterprise give notice to quit 1 month ago
    thinking of way to move on any ideas

  19. Ayupbrian says:

    This type of business is like a number of others and is a form of legalized loan sharking. The sales tactics are no more than hard sell and again is only legal because no one in politics can be bothered to tackle very nasty people hiding behind corporate skirts. This includes most banks and main line institutions, utility companies and of course same day loan companies! Don’t forget the Government are just a bad when it comes to getting their due rewards.
    Regrettably the future is not bright when we follow a monetary doctrine which only gets worse when available money becomes even less as the rich are getting more of it over time.

    I am glad that it is time for me to retire as I don’t envie the people still in the main stream fighting for some quality of life. Even now I have to be careful about my pensions and savings as it seems this sea is also full of sharks and the biggest one is the government.

    Sorry for Angelique and her family and hope she has the fortune to turn things around.

  20. Peter says:

    Very sad story I hope all works out for you. I’m an enterprise tenant and struggling. I totally see where your coming from.

  21. Steve says:

    I feel so sorry for you, your story echo’s my family’s, 10 years after being destroyed by Punch we are still suffering. Our life was ruined, we were bullied and force to pay fines etc. At the end we were forced to enter into a cash in hand deal set up by a BDM to decorate the premises prior to them letting us sell our lease, the lease we paid £60k for. We had to pay cash, this must have been illegal. It is simply criminal what theses people do. I don’t know how BDMs look themselves in the mirror, they must have families. It is a disgrace that in this day and age people are being forced to work for nothing, in may cases less than nothing. The business models are not about selling beer, there about getting another lease holder through the door that they can fleece.

    All we can do is hope these people gat a taste of their own medicine, hopefully Punch etc. will go to the wall and I hope these *****RDS suffer

  22. Richard Chivers says:

    A heartbreaking story. Well done you for keeping the pub going and having to look after customers while all that was going on. I have been blaming pub companies for the demise of the great British pub for years and this story only adds fuel to the fire. Good luck to you and your family for the future.

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