Wetherspoon won’t stock Diageo unless brewer cuts prices

Draught Guinness, Carslberg, Smithwicks and Budweiser off menu

Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin in the Three Tun Tavern in Blackrock, Co Dublin, its first outlet in the Republic. Photograph: Alan Betson

Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin in the Three Tun Tavern in Blackrock, Co Dublin, its first outlet in the Republic. Photograph: Alan Betson

Fri, Jul 25, 2014, 01:00

JD Wetherspoon, the British pub group that plans to open 30 outlets in the Republic, will operate its Irish bars “for the long- term” without any Diageo-distributed products, such as draught Guinness, Budweiser, Carlsberg or Smithwicks, unless it negotiates lower prices from the brewer.

Tim Martin, Wetherspoon’s chairman, said yesterday it wanted to stock Diageo’s products, but it was unwilling to pay the price charged for draught beer here.

“I don’t want to put pressure on Diageo, but we simply baulked at paying a higher price for Guinness in Ireland than we do in the UK,” he said.

He declined to comment on the price difference between the two markets, but it is understood the Irish price is up to 20 per cent higher.

First Irish outlet

Mr Martin was speaking yesterday at the Three Tun Tavern in Blackrock in Dublin, Wetherspoon’s first Irish pub which recently opened without any Diageo-distributed products.

He said Wetherspoon’s contract with Diageo in Britain prevented it from buying draught Guinness cheaply there and shipping it to Ireland.

“I’m confident we can move ahead with or without Diageo. We have a good relationship, but if it turns out that we don’t stock Guinness in any of our Irish pubs, then we might do long-term deals for Murphy’s and Beamish instead.”

Diageo said: “Wetherspoon is a highly valued partner of Diageo in Britain. As with all our customers, we are constantly exploring ways to make those relationships bigger and better.”

Mr Martin said Wetherspoon’s second Irish pub, in Cork, may open “by Christmas”. It is also planning pubs in Dún Laoghaire and Swords in Dublin.

“We have a couple of planning issues with the pub in Cork that we’re sorting out. I’ve seen the plans for Dún Laoghaire but I’m not sure when it will be open. We’ve recently signed contracts on the pub in Swords.”

No other deals

Mr Martin said it had also bid “on a few others” but it had no other firm deals in place. He said the group considered buying Capital Bars portfolio of four Dublin “super-pubs” that is currently on the market for an estimated €15 million, but did not bid. “We looked at them, but they’re too expensive.”

Mr Martin said he did not know how long it would take the group to get up to 30 pubs here, and it depended on the performance of its initial outlets. He said Wetherspoon’s had looked at buying pubs in Limerick, Galway and “some smaller towns”.

“As long as we feel accepted, we will plough on. We are a big tax collector for the State and we will provide a lot of jobs. The industry will benefit from having us here,” he said.