British pub group JD Wetherspoon is eyeing more openings in Cork and Dublin as it seeks to push the number of bars it owns in the Republic to around 30 in the coming years.
The group sees the scope to open “at least one or two” more pubs in Cork, to add to the one it currently operates in the city centre.
Wetherspoon’s pro-Brexit chairman Tim Martin has also voiced a preference for a no-deal Brexit rather than the most recent deal proposed by British prime minister Boris Johnson.
However, Mr Martin said a no-deal Brexit would not negatively affect Wetherspoon’s Irish operations as he believes a free trade deal will be struck between the EU and the UK and no tariffs will be placed on beer Wetherspoon exports into the Republic.
He expressed confidence in consumers “not swallowing [Brexit] scare stories” and continuing to visit the group’s pubs, suggesting UK consumer spending has not been dented amid the ongoing Brexit confusion and uncertainty.
Earlier this week, Wetherspoon announced its 11th bar in the Republic, via the acquisition of the HQ bar and restaurant on Hanover Quay in Dublin’s south docklands.
The group currently has seven pubs open here — four in suburban Dublin, one in Carlow town, and one each in Dublin and Cork City centres. It also has three in various stages of development in Dublin City, Waterford, and Galway.
The company has already said that it remains on the look-out for further sites around the country.
“There’s definitely room for half a dozen more (Wetherspoon outlets) in Dublin; both in the city and in the suburbs. And, there’s room for one or two more in Cork,” said Mr Martin.
The group’s sole existing pub in Cork is The Linen Weaver on Paul St in the city centre.
Mr Martin said trading has gone “pretty well” for Wetherspoon in Ireland over recent years, with “good sales growth”.
He pointed to its pubs in Dun Laoghaire and Blanchardstown as particular examples and said its most recent opening, The Silver Penny pub on Dublin’s Abbey St, is currently one of the busiest across the whole group.
Wetherspoon operates more than 900 pubs across the UK and Ireland.
Mr Martin said Wetherspoon may have been too slow, initially, in growing in Ireland and said it was on the lookout for more sites in the vein of its Forty Foot pub in Dun Laoghaire, in terms of scale.
“We may have been too timid to begin with when we first opened in Ireland, but prices for sites have since grown. Maybe if we’d been more buccaneering we could already have more than a dozen pubs in Dublin,” he said.
Wetherspoon has targeted April 2020 as the opening date for a planned pub in Waterford city centre. Earlier this year, it acquired the Carbon nightclub on Galway’s Eglinton St, for which it plans a €2.5m overhaul.
Wetherspoon’s largest single investment to date — a €20m superpub/89-bedroom hotel project on Dublin’s Camden St — is expected to open next summer.
In its latest trading update, Wetherspoon said that total group sales increased by 5.6% in the first quarter of its current financial year, which spans the three months to the end of October.