Pubs' Biggest Challenge is Regulation - Not Wetherspoons - Says VFI
Padraig Cribben, CEO of the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI), has said that regulation and "red tape" are the biggest challenges pubs in Ireland face today, not the growing presence of JD Wetherspoon.
Cribben, along with Oliver Hughes, chair of the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) and CEO of The Porterhouse Brewing Company, and Eddie Gershon, spokesperson for Wetherspoons, talked about the future of the Irish pubs sector on Newstalk Industry Review.
Cribben noted that while pubs in Ireland (particularly in Dublin and tourist areas) have enjoyed some success in recent times, they still face big challenges due to State regulation, below-cost selling in supermarkets and high rates.
"The biggest challenge that is there for the Irish pub is from within. It's from the regulatory authorities. It's from the 20-odd quangos - the arms of the state that the pub will have to deal with," said Cribben.
Cribben was responding to the question of just how big of an impact the UK-based Wetherspoons will have on the sector. Oliver Hughes also downplayed the impact of the chain, adding: "I think we are a little bit obsessed with prices in Ireland."
Eddie Gershon said that Wetherspoon's entry into Ireland has been a "game-changer", offering a low-cost alternative to other city pubs. The goal, he said, is to establish the brand that has been so successful in the UK while mixing with established players in Ireland.
"We are bringing what we think are 'our style' of pubs to a country which has an established pub culture. What we are not doing is opening 'Irish pubs' - that would be ridiculous," said Gershon.
Cribben added that Wetherspoon is not alone as a value offering: "I can find a pub for you in any town in Ireland where you'll get four pints for a tenner or there-abouts. Not every pub, but in most towns you'll find one that is operating at that level of the trade."
JD Wetherspoon currently operates four pubs in Ireland, including the Forty Foot in Dun Laoghaire (pictured), with a fifth opening in September. The chain has plans to open a further 30 bars across Ireland over the next five years, including one in the former homeless hostel in Camden Hall, Dublin, in which it has invested €4 million.