A group of bar staff in Brighton have launched a petition urging the editor of the The Argus in Brighton to scrap a weekly pub reviews column.
The Pub Spy reviews drinking establishments in the Sussex town anonymously and appears to have upset staff with its sometimes acerbic style since lauching in February
In its most recent review of the County Oak for instance the reviewer said: “I’m not narrow-minded and don’t think I’m squeamish, but getting my shoes covered in vomit before I even got through the door should have provided all the warning I needed.
“By the time the fully track-suited barmaid, with a bandage on her right hand, served me a pint of Kronenbourg I realised this was Shameless meets Celebrity Juice – but without the class of either of these programmes. ”
The review concluded: “I’ve been in some rough dives in my time, but I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere that I thought it was more likely to kick off at any moment.”
The County Oak review attracted 121 comments and features as one of the stories on the Argus most-read list, and was even followed up by Mail Online.
On the Druid’s Arms the Pub Spy said: “There’s an empty blackboard, again surrounded by twinkling lights, which served as a metaphor for the whole pub – nothing really going on, not dressed very well. Add the whiff of disinfectant that pervades and you’ve got the whole picture.
The petition, which has attracted 173 signatures so far, says: “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.
“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.”
The petitioners have asked Argus editor Arron Hendy to apologise and drop the Pub Spy column.
It adds: “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.”
Press Gazette emailed the “Brighton Bartenders Association” to find out who was behind the petition.
They did not reveal their identity but said: “The petition was drafted online on in a group that industry staff use to discuss industry stuff. I’d say it had the approval of a good 80 industry members before the petition was put online.”
Argus group editor Andy Parkes said: “Clearly the Pub Spy correspondent has caused a bit of a stir. It’s also a led to a lot more customers for the pub and a lot more web hits here.
“It is a review and it is free speech. The petition won’t make any difference, we won’t be led by that – we have to publish what is right.
“It is presented clearly as a comment piece and is snapshot in time, he reports on what he finds.”
Parkes also noted that while negative reviews have been highlighted, the majority of Pub Spy columns so far have been positive.