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'Irish pubs need lower prices to survive': Wetherspoon's boss gives his take on boozers

But we’ve got some of the best barmen in the world, according to Tim Martin.

The outside of the Three Tun Tavern, and Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin
The outside of the Three Tun Tavern, and Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin
Image: Three Tun Tavern/Wetherspoons

TIM MARTIN IS the chairman of JD Wetherspoon, the hated-and-loved pub chain that runs more than 900 outlets across the UK and has just opened its first in Ireland. There are more to come.

DailyEdge.ie asked him some questions about his Irish venture.

Namely: what he thinks about the future of Irish pubs, why beer is more expensive here, and whether he agrees that Irish bar staff really ARE the best in the world.

What’s your impression of Irish pubs?

Irish publicans and people have had a tremendous influence on British pubs – not through fake Irish pubs, but through so many Irish people having run pubs in England. And people like the pubs and Irish publicans are very popular. Almost as popular as Terry Wogan.

Many people believe the arrival of Wetherspoons is going to mean the end for a particular kind of traditional Irish pub. What do you say to them?

I don’t think that’s true. A lot of pubs in Ireland closed down long before we turned up, and we’re investing in pubs that had already closed down.

I think overall, by investing heavily in places, by encouraging people to come to Blackrock or Dun Laoghaire, we’ll be able to help revive the town. And good publicans will be able to survive and thrive nearby.

One of those traditional Irish pubs, in days of yore Source: Nick

Some people hope that Wetherspoons will help bring prices down. Will it?

Prices are high in Éire for going out for a pint. Which in the end doesn’t help pubs. So I think that pressure will have to apply – between publicans, but also suppliers - if pubs are to thrive in the future. I don’t think that we’re just competing with other pubs; you’re competing above all with supermarkets.

I think for the Irish pub to survive, it will need slightly more competitive prices. Certainly not for the price to ratchet up as much as it has over the last ten to 20 years. And that goes for pubs in general too.

So why are pubs more expensive in Ireland than the UK?

I don’t know. I know that wholesale prices are considerably higher. And there’s probably less competition among suppliers, because it’s a small economy.

Suppliers have got to start doing a lot more, and perhaps having another supplier or two in the market might help. I’m trying to be very diplomatic here.

Your first Irish pub doesn’t sell Guinness. Do you drink it yourself?

I don’t mind a pint of Guinness. My old man worked for Guinness.

Some of the taps in the Three Tun Tavern, Blackrock Source: Three Tun Tavern via Twitter

Wetherspoons have said they plan to open many more pubs in Ireland. Where?

If we do well in Blackrock, it probably indicates we’ve got at least a future of 30 pubs in Ireland. I think [they will be in] the big cities. I think the issue will be how small a town can we open up in. And at the moment we’re really looking just at the big cities, the suburbs of big cities.

Are Irish bar staff REALLY the best in the world?

They’re up there with the best.

More: Here’s all you need to know about Wetherspoon’s new Irish pub>

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Michael Freeman

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