LANDLORDS in York say their pubs are running out of beer - just as demand soars in the wake of the hot weather and Euro 2004.

They claim a new system of paying upfront for deliveries of their supplies is leaving them "high and dry".

More than a dozen pubs across York have been affected by the system, since they were taken over by Goldtry Ltd, which uses Leicester-based County Estate Management (CES) to arrange the payments and deliveries.

Under the previous arrangement, the tenant landlords paid for their booze two weeks after it was delivered - giving them a chance to sell it first.

But now they say CES will not release deliveries until it has received payment - in cash - up front.

Landlords at several of the pubs have reported running out of some beers when they have not managed to pay up on time, and claim it has led to accounting problems. Others claim they struggle to find the cash to pay for their beer in advance.

Amanda Smith, 37, landlady of the Tang Hall Hotel, said she was left without any beer or lager for an entire weekend - forcing her to borrow from neighbouring landlords.

She said: "I had a party in last Saturday and I was left high and dry.

"Business can fluctuate at this time of year with the football and hot weather and the races, and I don't know what's coming in from day to day. When you're struggling to keep your head above water then you're not going to turn something down.

"I've had to borrow from neighbours, but that's not fair on them "I've been landlady of this pub for six years and in all that time I've never had so much hassle and chaos with a company."

Alf Durrant, landlord of The Poacher, in Acomb, said he ran out of Stella Artois lager for a night a few weeks ago.

He said: "They (CES) said we hadn't paid them but we had. We've had problems since they took over."

Keith Bond, landlord of the Pack of Cards, in Lindsay Avenue, Acomb, said he was left without any cask bitter three weeks ago. "I didn't manage to get my money to them on time so they wouldn't deliver," he said. "It's a stupid system."

Barbara Stickney, 52, landlady of The Phoenix Inn, George Street, said she was left without her bestselling Fosters Lager for two days when she was slightly late with an upfront payment.

"Unless the money goes in on a certain day they won't release the beer," she said. "CES are not giving us time to sell the beer so we can pay for it. They won't listen."

Mike Hird, who runs the Edward VII and Victoria Vaults, both in Nunnery Lane, had a meeting yesterday with the Federation of Licensed Victuallers' Associations (FLVA) to discuss his concerns.

"The worry is that we're paying up front for something we haven't been given," he said. "Some landlords don't have the cashflow to pay for the beer up front."

Tony Payne, chief executive of the FLVA, said: "I'm looking into it at this moment in time and we're taking legal advice."

Philip Sambell, director of operations, County Estate Management, said: "The transactions and contracts between Goldtry Limited and its tenants are entirely a private matter and as such we nor Goldtry Limited have any comment to make with regard to these matters.

"This matter is of no legitimate public concern and we would caution you as to the nature of any comment you have to make in your newspaper."

Updated: 10:48 Tuesday, June 15, 2004