Would you like cheaper beer?
Would you like to drink cheaper beer?
Think that’s a strange question with only one obvious answer?
Well the UK discount pub operator JD Wetherspoon’s is embarking on its first big overseas expansion by purchasing a small number of outlets in the Republic of Ireland. And this expansion in the south of Ireland has a few people upset and worried of the further demise of the traditional family owned Irish pub.
The London-based company is to spend €1.5 million refurbishing what used to be the Tonic Bar in Blackrock, Dublin. The pub will be renamed The Three Tun Tavern and will open for business on July 8th. The Blackrock pub marks Wetherspoon’s entry to the market in the Republic. It has also acquired the former Newport Cafe pub in Cork, which is due to open in the summer of 2014
The chain, which runs almost 900 pubs in the UK, is believed to be in negotiations on another 10 premises and is looking at opening as many as 20 pubs here over in the next 5 years.
The Republic of Ireland, is a tough market to crack, as it’s a heavily indebted and regulated market still dominated by family-owned bars, but the cost of buying outlets and licences in the Irish pub sector has fallen rapidly since the country’s financial crisis. Falling turnovers and huge debts are crippling many of the nation’s pubs all around the country.
According to a report by the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland, since 2007, almost one in eight of Ireland’s pubs have closed, bar sales have fallen by a third and employment by a quarter. The industry is just about hanging on.
This is too good an opportunity for Wetherspoon’s to miss. The company’s chairman and founder, Tim Martin, stated that Wetherspoon’s “aim is to invest up to €50m in the Republic of Ireland over the next five to 10 years, with our strong buying power we expect to provide good value with 10-20 per cent cheaper prices than most Irish pubs.”
Who are they?
Tim Martin, in 1979, set up Wetherspoon’s in the London area. The no-frills pub chain, known for cheap drinks, reduced priced food, and shunning live music or sport on TV has more than 900 pubs and employs about 23,000 staff.
You can find a Wetherspoon’s in every town and city in the UK, and they have a pretty efficient standardised operating system across all of their venues.
Listed on the stock market, in July 2013, it made a pre-tax profit of £77 million (€93.7 million)
But will the idea take off in Ireland: Would you drink in a British discount chain pub?
Attitudes towards Wetherspoon’s’ introduction to Ireland seems to be mixed, at least from what is seen on the Irish online community. Within days of the announcement a Facebook page “Feck off Wetherspoons” was created having nearly 2,500 followers. On Irish themed forums some commentators were foaming at the mouth at the prospect of a British pub chain moving into Ireland, with one online news network having the headline “The British are coming!”
As you would suspect, many publicans seem doggedly against the development, as it will invariably lead to more competition on price, and a further division of their dwindling market.
Some argued that Wetherspoon’s are too dull and sterile, with standardised platforms, offering cheap pints and average food, with no music or sport showing on TV. If Weatherspoon’s succeed some are concerned that this will push many traditional Irish pubs out of the market. Irish pubs conventionally the centres of friendly conversation, music, and watching live sports.
The issue obviously affected some so much that they were pushed to set up a Facebook site. The site has over 2500 likes
There are some who set up a rival version, welcoming Wetherspoon’s to Ireland, but has only about 41 likes so far!
The negative reactions tend to focus on the soulless atmosphere in Wetherspoon’s and/or British pubs comparing it to going to McDonalds for a beer!
Another issue is that cheap drink attracts a certain clientele and might end up as all day drinking houses for the unemployed and alcoholics.
Some views are just outright anti British whatever about the price. One stating on a forum that they “would never drink in a British owned pub in Ireland”, while another post stated with gusto. “No. No. No. No. British “McPubs” not welcome here. Stay across the water”
Positive reactions centre on the fact that more competition usually leads to cheaper prices. Competition is always a good thing. Consumers are really just interested in one thing, and that’s the cheapest price. Many feel that Irish publicans have ripped off the public for a long time now, and that if a discount chain arrives into Ireland, prices across the board might come down. A change is good for the stagnant industry.
The “Indigenous or traditional culture” tag doesn’t seem to wash either when you consider that pubs up and down the country show English Premier League football, British horse racing, and with many patrons reading fare set as “The Irish Sun” or “Irish daily Mail” (shudder) for example, all the while probably drinking Budweiser, Heineken, or even, a Guinness with its long established Anglo – Irish roots. It’s a capitalist free market world, and competition is what the consumers want. Actually, Weatherspoon’s are just as likely to help the local Irish economy as their modus operandi is to source local beers in the UK so one could quite easily see them do the same with local breweries and up and coming craft beer start-ups, giving them a chance to expand.
It’s about time the Irish pubs had a bit of competition as the bar industry has criminally overcharged customers for years and are still doing it. I find it hilarious that publicans are at a loss to why they are doing so badly. It’s got to do with the public finally voting with their feet. Why spend money in overpriced bars when you can have a party in your own home with cheap beer from the supermarket.
The Vintners association of Ireland are also very powerful in the circles of power, second only to the Catholic Church. Price fixing is their forte, profits and squeezing the customers the target. Watch Weatherspoon’s hit the Irish market running.
Also the fact that Ireland has given the world some shockingly bad and cheesy Irish pubs down through the years, we can’t really complain when an English chain wants to break into our market.
See previous article>http://thisdrinkinglife.com/irish-themed-bars-always-shite-avoided-like-plague/
I have drank in Wetherspoon’s several times, and they were fine, good food and beer for the right price. Weatherspoon’s pubs are where everyone starts the night off, and is also the place for the hangover fry up the next day. I do like the idea of a bar with no music, or a TV blaring out from the corner of the bar. People can chat to each other in total comfort.
Would I drink in there? Yes. British ‘McPubs’ with cheap pints, good variety in beers, and quality and value in food are strongly welcome here!
Drinking in an Irish pub is still the best place to have a beer in the world. But it’s the people you’re with that makes a night out, not the establishment, and for that reason the traditional Irish atmosphere won’t die out, it might be just rocking away in an English pub chain in Ireland!