Wetherspoon axes Heineken after Dún Laoghaire pub row
British pub chain claims Dutch brewer refused to supply beer to new Forty Foot venue
Sign outside the Three Tun Tavern in Blackrock Co Dublin - a wetherspoons pub, showing discounted beer prices including Heineken. Photograph:Frank Miller /The Irish Times
The company, which operates 926 pubs in the UK and Ireland, claims the Dutch brewer refused to supply Heineken lager, the Republic’s biggest-selling draught beer, and Murphy’s to its newly revamped Forty Foot pub in Dún Laoghaire.
Wetherspoon said Heineken demanded personal guarantees from chief executive John Hutson in order to supply any other products to its newest Irish outlet.
In response to what it described as “obstructive” demands, the British chain has stopped selling Heineken and Murphy’s across its entire network of pubs.
Its annual sales of Heineken products are said to be worth in the region of £60 million.
The row appears to stem from Wetherspoon’s decision to sell Heineken lager and Murphy’s at under €3 a pint in its other Irish pub - The Three Tun Tavern in Blackrock - substantially undercutting the €5 price usually charged in Irish pubs.
The chain does not serve Guinness either after a disagreement on price with drinks group Diageo.
Wetherspoon has invested nearly €4 million buying and refurbishing the Dún Laoghaire venue, which is part of the Pavilion Theatre complex overlooking Dún Laoghaire harbour.
“We have been trading with Heineken for 35 years and they have never requested personal guarantees before,” Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin said.
“It’s obstructive to do so now, especially when we made record profits of around £80 million last year,” he added.
“The refusal to supply Heineken lager and Murphy’s just before the opening of our new pub in Dún Laoghaire, which represents an investment by us of nearly €4 million, is unacceptable and hard to understand.”
A spokeswoman for Heineken Ireland said: “We are aware of the comments made by JD Wetherspoon and its chairman this morning.”
“ It is unfortunate that we find ourselves in this position with a customer. It is not our intention to comment in any further detail at this point as we do not wish to comment publicly on relationships with any customer,” she added.
Heineken UK said the company was seeking a resolution as soon as possible.
It’s unclear at this stage how the row will affect Wetherspoon’s Irish ambitions. It has plans to open 30 outlets in the Republic as part of a major expansion drive.
The chain recently acquired the former Light Nightclub in Blanchardstown which it is planning to develop into a pub. It has also secured pub venues in Swords in Dublin and in Cork City.
Its new-look Forty Foot pub, which is on two floors, intends to specialise in selling real ales and craft beer, the company said.