British pub group JD Wetherspoon is viewing the development of its two unopened Dublin sites as priorities regarding its Irish growth plans.
The group’s boss, Tim Martin, said two months ago that “volatile” commercial property prices had effectively put the brakes on Wetherspoon’s Irish growth plans.
He said the aim of growing its Irish pub portfolio to around 30 outlets will take longer than expected, while progress is slowing regarding new site acquisitions.
A spokesperson for the group yesterday said management was “very happy” with trading levels at the Irish operations in the last year and that the group remains on the lookout for new sites around the country.
On a group-wide basis, JD Wetherspoon yesterday reported a 12.5% increase in pre-tax profits to £66m (€78m) for the 12 months to the end of July; with revenues for the year rising by 5.4% to just under £1.6bn.
Wetherspoon has five pubs operating in Ireland — four in suburban Dublin and one in Cork city centre. It has another four — two in central Dublin and one each in Waterford and Carlow — either in varying stages of development or awaiting planning approval.
In July, Mr Martin said final approval for the two Dublin sites — a bar/hotel in Camden St and a pub in Rathmines — would provide a major boost for the company here.
The spokesperson said yesterday that development of these two projects is the current chief focus of Wetherspoon’s Irish agenda.
The group has previously stated its confidence in succeeding with its €4m hotel and bar plan for Camden St — despite objections from locals and a planning hold-up over council concerns about the high number of late-night venues in the vicinity.
The group said it believes the development will benefit the city in terms of investment, jobs, and the refurbishment of a disused site.
Earlier in the summer, Mr Martin stopped short of saying Wetherspoon’s Irish plans were officially on hold. He said the group remains committed to growing its Irish business and recently had a bid for a third central Dublin site turned down.
A dedicated supporter of Brexit, Mr Martin also said Britain’s eventual exit from the EU will have no negative bearing on Wetherspoon’s expansion plans for Ireland.
Regarding the next step in the Brexit journey, Mr Martin said: “Common sense suggests that the worst approach for the UK is to insist on the necessity of a ‘deal’ — we don’t need one and the fact that EU countries sell us twice as much as we sell them creates a hugely powerful negotiating position.”
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