Independent pub bosses react to Wetherspoons 99p drinks

Pubgoers will be able to grab a pint for 99p at Wetherspoon pubs. Photo by Charlotte Tattersall/Getty Images.Pubgoers will be able to grab a pint for 99p at Wetherspoon pubs. Photo by Charlotte Tattersall/Getty Images.
Pubgoers will be able to grab a pint for 99p at Wetherspoon pubs. Photo by Charlotte Tattersall/Getty Images. | Charlotte Tattersall/Getty Images

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Wetherspoons boss Tim Martin says people will be able to ‘save themselves some money’ throughout November

Bar owners and managers in Birmingham have expressed their frustration about the news that pub-chain Wetherspoons will slash drink prices throughout November, despite costs rising across the UK’s pub industry.

The popular pub-chain will have unlimited refills on 99p hot drinks, and pints for less than a pound in many locations next month.

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The discounts will vary between pubs, but the vast majority will have three key drink offers.

The announcement comes with surging costs within the hospitality industry and a warning that the price of a pint might have to rise to cover them.

City Pub Group chairman Clive Watson told the BBC that the price of a pint could rise by as much as 30p so companies can cover higher wages and soaring energy costs.

‘It will force venues to reduce prices when costs are rising’

With many venues still recovering from the effects of the pandemic, Tom Mee, the owner of The Juke bar in King’s Heath, said Wetherspoons’ decision to cut the price of a pint to 99p could force other venues to ‘reduce their prices’ in an effort to compete.

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Speaking to BirminghamWorld, Tom said: “The news that Wetherspoons will be slashing the price of some pints to 99p whilst other venues of differing sizes are having to face the very real prospect of adding up to 30p onto the cost of their beers, is sadly symptomatic of the government we have in power at the moment.

“Throughout the pandemic they have given a lot less time to the smaller independent venues throughout the country.

Tom Mee, the owner of The Juke in king’s HeathTom Mee, the owner of The Juke in king’s Heath
Tom Mee, the owner of The Juke in king’s Heath | JPI

“Whilst some people may be quick to point out the duty cuts on beer announced in the budget yesterday, it is only applicable on draught containers over 40 litres. Many smaller venues buy exclusively in 20 and 30 litre kegs so gain no benefit, whereas bigger chains will probably only buy kegs of 50 litres plus.

“It is understandable that given the financial climate not everyone may be in a position to spend north of £4 on a pint, but slashing the price of a pint to 99p will force other venues to reduce their prices in an effort to compete at a time when margins are smaller and overhead costs are rising.”

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Peter Connolly, who runs Nortons bar in Digbeth, said the pub-chain’s decision to cut the price of a pint to 99p is ‘tasteless’.

“They have their targets and we have ours but I don’t think it will affect our trade but it is tasteless to do that,” he told BirminghamWorld.

“I wouldn’t say it’s unfair as it’s just the nature of business, and they can afford to do that and i’m sure other big pub-chains could do it as well.”

Tim, a general bar manager who works in the Jewellery Quarter, said: “I think it’s ridiculous.

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“If you’re looking at it from both sides; if you’re a Wetherspoons customer it’s ideal, but as far as competition goes I feel for those venues by Wetherspoons because at the moment trade is up and down and those venues are going to suffer even more having just come through Covid.

“Who needs to pay 99p for a drink? you’re going to get sales but not making huge amounts by slashing prices to 99p - and there’s no way other venues can slash prices that much.”

Wetherspoons founder Tim MartinWetherspoons founder Tim Martin
Wetherspoons founder Tim Martin

What drinks will be on offer at Wetherspoons?

All throughout November offers will be in place which will see prices at more than 770 pubs slashed on a handful of popular drinks.

Hot drinks, including a range of coffees, teas and hot chocolate, will be available for 99p, with free refills available.

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These pubs will also be serving bottles of Beck’s and a 25ml Bell’s Whisky with a mixer for 99p each.

A pint of Ruddles Best pale ale will be available for 99p in 671 of these Wetherspoons pubs in England, with some pubs serving Greene King IPA for 99p instead.

The other 99 pubs will be serving the pale ale at £1.10, because of the minimum unit restrictions in place in these countries.

All the pubs will also offer significant discounts on a selection of gins and wines, too.

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Wetherspoons airport sites will not be included in any of the offers.

Wetherspoons chairman Tim Martin, said: “ Our pubs are known for their excellent choice of drinks at value-for-money-prices at all times.

“Throughout November our customers will be able to choose from a great choice of drinks and save themselves some money too.”

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