The Good Pub Guide now charging landlords to be listed
Previously popular for its independent reviews by pub-loving customers and anonymous inspections, landlords are now accusing the publication of holding them to ransom.
Entries in the Good Pub Guide were previously based on trusted standards of independence, yet for the first time, pubs in the 2012 guide will have to pay for the privilege.
In the new publication, published next month, only pubs that have paid a tariff – £99 for a basic pub and £199 for a grander establishment – will have more detailed entries.
According to the Daily Mail, landlords across the country are in revolt, fearing consumers will feel duped. Neil Kelso, who runs the Victoria in Beeston, Nottinghamshire, a fixture in the guide for the 17 years, is among those who have refused to pay.
He said: "It really is pointless to pay to be in a guide that is supposed to be driven by consumer opinion. There is a principle at stake here. I really feel pubs are being held to ransom over this."
Others are said to have reluctantly paid but may not do so next year. Oliver Wolfe, who runs the Coach and Horses in Buckland Brewer, North Devon, said: "I've told loads of people who swear by the guide, and everyone agrees, that this means it's no longer independent.
"It's going to lose its integrity. But the bottom line is that we are a little country pub and, like all rural pubs, we've taken a hammering and the guide has helped trade."
Jon Oldham, landlord of The Royal Oak in Ramsden, Oxfordshire, told the newspaper that he has objections but still paid. He added: "I thought we'd lose custom. We get a lot of people coming down from London at the weekend and this extra trade is worth up to £30,000 a year.'"
Ebury Press, which publishes the guide, has defended the new fees-for-entry system in the introduction to this year's guide: "This is a necessary change without which we could not cover our research and production costs, because of the way people are using the Guide – with fewer buying the printed version, and more using the internet version or the iPhone app.
"However, selection of the pubs for inclusion remains exactly as before. No pub can gain an entry simply by paying a fee. Only pubs that have been inspected anonymously, approved and then invited to join are included."
Other good pubs will appear in the guide free of charge but with a limited review.