JD Wetherspoon hopeful of planning resolution as Irish bars do well

Pub chain has found itself bogged down in planning obstacles for two Dublin sites

JD Wetherspoon founder Tim Martin said the chain remains reluctant to open any further bars in Ireland until the planning issues are resolved. Photograph: Frank Miller

JD Wetherspoon founder Tim Martin said the chain remains reluctant to open any further bars in Ireland until the planning issues are resolved. Photograph: Frank Miller

 

JD Wetherspoon, which operates five pubs in the Republic, has said it hopes to see a positive resolution to planning obstacles that have delayed the opening of two new bars in Dublin.

The British pub chain has found itself bogged down in planning barriers for its Abbey Street and Camden Street sites, which involve an investment of about €20 million and are expected to create an estimated 200 jobs.

Chairman Tim Martin, who founded the group in 1979, also said its Irish bars continued to put in a strong trading performance as it reported its slowest sales growth in at least five years on Friday.

JD Wetherspoon said revenue rose 1.4 per cent to £801.4 million (€914.7 million) for the half year to January 22nd, down from growth of 6.2 per cent a year earlier.

Strong food sales

“We’ve seen a slightly higher trading performance at our Irish bars than for the UK, with particularly strong food sales. We are extremely busy in Dún Laoghaire and Blanchardstown, which is an unusual pub for us given that it is in a retail park, is doing particularly well. I’m also happy with how the other bars are doing in Ireland,” Mr Martin told The Irish Times.

The group, which currently operates four bars in Dublin and one in Cork city, acquired Camden Hall on Camden Street in Dublin city centre in late 2014. It intends to open a 100-room hotel and pub on the site as part of a €4 million investment. However, delays have meant that the bar, and a second one planned for Abbey Street at premises the company bought in 2015 for €1.5 million, have yet to open.

Mr Martin told The Irish Times, the chain remained reluctant to open any further bars in Ireland until the planning issues are resolved.

The pub chain, which operates more than 900 pubs in Britain, entered the Irish market in 2013 with ambitious plans to open up to 30 bars locally. However, the planning delays and rising property prices have led the group to revise down the number of pubs it intends to acquire.

Shares fall

“We’re still in limbo on the two Dublin sites, which are expected to be the most expensive pubs we’ve ever built. But I’m hopeful planning permission will come through shortly that should enable us to proceed. We have been in this position for a year or so and would be relieved to see a positive outcome,” said Mr Martin.

Shares in JD Wetherspoon fell by 3.4 per cent in early trading in London on Friday after it warned it faces an increase in taxes and duties of at least £20 million (€22.8 million) next year.

The group said its half-year pretax profit after exceptional items rose 9 per cent to £39.9 million (€45.5 million) and it said it would maintain its full-year dividend at 4 pence per share.

– (Additional reporting: Reuters)