A dispute between several of Philadelphia’s Irish pubs and the Guinness Bass Import Co is continuing more than a year after the bar owners halted sales of Guinness-brand beer.
While the silky, dark brew flowed abundantly at an Ireland Chamber of Commerce luncheon for Guinness’ president of North American operations, taps in several of the city’s most popular pubs carried Murphy’s and Beamish Stout.
"It offends me,’’ said Chris Mullins, owner of McGillin’s Olde Ale House. ‘‘I don’t like dealing with people who are doing something contrary to my business.’’
At issue is a Guinness marketing policy of helping investors start new Irish pubs by teaching them the ins and outs of running a pub, from selecting a site to planning a menu. Bar owners say the practice allows Guinness to subsidise new pubs that will put established pubs out of business.
About half a dozen Philadelphia bars are taking part in the boycott, which does not appear to have spread outside the area.
‘‘It’s not about competition,’’ Mullins said. ‘‘Every year new Irish pubs open, (but) they’re not supported by one of the largest corporations in the world. They’ve got to buy from the same suppliers I do.’’
Tim Kelly, Guinness’ president of North American operations, was in Philadelphia for a luncheon with the local chapter of the Ireland Chamber of Commerce in the United States. He said the pub development was simply a way to sell more beer for the company, which is a subsidiary of London-based Diageo PLC food conglomerate.
‘‘Our job is to sell Guinness,’’ Kelly said. ‘‘It’s about consumer demand.’’
‘‘We don’t open or manage pubs. What we do is give training and advice to anybody who wants it, whether it’s a new pub or an existing pub.’’
Philadelphia pub owners who have stopped selling Guinness, however, say they don’t get the same benefits as those just starting out.
‘‘We feel that we helped them become the successful brand that they’ve become,’’ said Mark O’Connor, an owner of the Irish Pub who has co-ordinated the protest. ‘‘We’d like them to market their beer as they always did, through the independent pub system.’’
O’Connor also worries that other brewers might start competing with his establishment and create what Mullins called ‘‘cookie-cutter, Disneyesque Irish pubs’’.
‘‘Our argument is, what if Anheuser-Busch does the same thing? What if they use the same percentage of their resources to start new business?’’ he said.
More than a year after abandoning Guinness, the boycotting pub owners say business has not suffered.
‘‘I was very nervous when we took Guinness off,’’ O’Connor said. ‘‘But as long as you have a good alternative, people are coming for the atmosphere, not for the Guinness.’’
"We’re doing as well as we’ve ever done.’’