Belfast Telegraph

We built a hotel in Dublin in time it takes to get Belfast pub licence: Wetherspoon chief blasts slow progress in opening two city pubs

Tim Martin (Aaron Chown/PA)
Tim Martin (Aaron Chown/PA)
Emma Deighan

By Emma Deighan

JD Wetherspoon chief Tim Martin has said progress with his plans for two new pubs in Belfast has been "glacially slow" as he revealed he'll be working part-time after a health scare.

Mr Martin - who is taking several weeks out to recover from a ruptured appendix - said that there had been no progress with the planning for the venues on University Road in Belfast and Royal Avenue in the city centre.

"In the time it takes to get a licence for pub in Belfast, we will have built a 94-room hotel and pub in Dublin," said Mr Martin, who was educated in Northern Ireland.

"I've said it before, Belfast needs to come more in line with London and Dublin to help the NI economy. It will mean that someone who wants to open a craft beer pub in Belfast, or Derry, will be able to do so with ease."

His comments come after JD Wetherspoon said it expects its annual results to be less than previous years.

In a trading update for the 13 weeks to October 28, the pub chain said like-for-like sales increased by 5.5%, and total sales were up 6.2%. But despite that growth, Mr Martin, who has four NI pubs, said the company was dealing with tough comparatives, after several years of record profits. The vocal Brexiteer also said a number financial pressures facing the trade were behind weaker than usual results. "We've had several record years in a row and we've a long-term history of growing profit. We've gone from a profit of £2m in 1992 to over £100m last year," he said.

"We've got some wage increases, interest rates have gone up, utility increases, sugar tax and so on which have contributed.

"We've had a good start to the year but we wouldn't be surprised if we were a tad under last year's record."

Mr Martin, who was born in Norwich but studied at Campbell College, also reiterated his belief that the UK should adopt free trade after Brexit, which he believes will be better for business.

In the summer he printed 500,000 beer mats for distribution in his 875 pubs promoting a free-trade/no deal Brexit. He said they proved controversial with some punters but added: "My customers are quite tolerant of me. The main benefit of Brexit for the citizens of the UK are that we can eliminate EU import taxes on food and drink and bring down prices in pubs, clubs and restaurants."

Belfast Telegraph