On Friday 15th October, I travelled to Guildford to attend the AGM of Loungers. The company operates 150 Lounge cafe-bars and 31 Cosy Club restaurant-bars and, prior to the pandemic, cask ale was available in a number of the Cosy Clubs. However, the committee had received reports that, since reopening, very little cask ale was now being sold, so I attended the AGM to raise this issue with the board. I wanted to find out if the reduction in availability was temporary, while the economy continues to recover, or if a strategic decision had been made to exit the cask ale market.
I was the only shareholder who attended the meeting, so I was able to ask a question during the formal part of the meeting and then speak to the Chief Executive and Finance Director afterwards.
The CEO said that availability of cask is not something they’ve discussed at board level and no strategic decision has been made. They don’t want to compromise on quality, so there have been times during the last 18 months where it’s not been possible to stock. They see their drinks offer as being customer led, and the CEO believes that there are some venues where cask is still available, although he agreed to check. He agreed that they will have a discussion about cask over the next couple of months and then provide a more considered response.
The club’s committee will continue to engage with the company and use our shareholding as a means to encourage them to make cask ale more widely available through their large and growing state. However, depending on future updates from the company, we will continue to evaluate whether our continued shareholding remains consistent with our policy to invest ‘in shares of companies whose activities include brewing and/or retailing real ale’.
Ian Brindley – CMIC Committee Member