TRADITIONAL Limerick publicans have “nothing to fear” from the emergence of Wetherspoon’s in Ireland.
That’s according to the local representative of the Vintners Federation of Ireland, Cllr Jerry O’Dea.
The British pub operator is opening a slew of new pubs around the country this year, with its spokesperson Eddie Gershon confirming last year that Limerick was firmly on its radar.
“It is an area we want to find a site in and purchase a building. We will be opening a number of pubs across the Republic, and Limerick is an area we are looking at,” he said.
The pub chain has already opened at two locations in Dublin, and its intervention has sparked a price war, with its price of a pint starting from as low as €2.50.
In comparison, pints in pubs across Limerick hover between €4 and €5, with the occasional drink at a lower promotional price.
Cllr O’Dea, whose Mulgrave Street pub has been in his family for three generations, a described Wetherspoon’s as “the McDonald’s of the pub industry”, and said he feels Irish punters still prefer the more traditional offering.
“Their offering is very much a corporate offering. For example, if you want to go there, you will not meet the publican you know, you are eating from a restricted menu. The prices may be cheaper, but cheap isn’t always good. A lot of pubs in our organisation [VFI] would offer good value for money, and provide Irish food, and employ local people,” he said.
Since entering the Irish market, Wetherspoon’s has engaged in a high-profile battle which has seen it pull Heineken, Fosters, Guinness and Murphy’s from its pubs.
Instead, it stocks a selection of Irish, Czech and American and English lagers, including O’Hara’s.
Cllr O’Dea says the fact the pub will not stock as recognised brands will overrule any price sensitivity of customers.
“There will be a little phase where people will say: ‘Oh, it’s a pint, and it’s €3 in Wetherspoons’. But it is not a pint of what you want. It is a pint of some kind of obscure lager being bought cheaply from somewhere. Irish people like the brands and the quality of the brands we serve. They know there is a cost involved in it,” he predicted.
While Wetherspoon’s can afford to sell alcohol cheaply, he says small pubs will struggle, pointing out that of the €4.80 paid for a pint in a bar, just €1.40 goes back to the publican.