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A new Wetherspoon's would kill pub trade, say landlords

By This is Cornwall  |  Posted: September 30, 2010

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LANDLORDS say pub giant JD Wetherspoon could "kill" trade in St Ives after it confirmed it was seeking to open a branch in the town.

The chain is looking to add to its portfolio of 783 venues nationwide by acquiring a property in the seaside town.

A building has been identified but a deal is yet to be done and a spokesman said the location would not be revealed until everything was signed and sealed.

He also said the firm had not yet decided whether the branch would be the standard JD Wetherspoon or the more upmarket Lloyd's Number 1 brand.

After more than 30 years of trading, JD Wetherspoon has built a reputation for low rates on food and drink. A promotion last year sparked a high street price war after its pubs dropped the cost of a pint to levels not seen since 1989.

While the chain promises bargain booze to drinkers and cheap food for diners, landlords in St Ives fear the financial weight of the company could hit them hard.

In a town as seasonal as St Ives, the landlord of the Sheaf of Wheat said the last thing it needed was another place to drink.

Eric Bloxam told The Cornishman: "It's going to kill a lot of businesses. Things are quiet enough in winter as it is and to have them open up will only make things worse for us – there's nowhere in St Ives where you will be able to buy a cheaper drink.

"After this week things will drop right off. Trade disappears over winter and we just keep our regulars.

"There are 13 pubs in the centre of St Ives, if you slap another one in the middle, serving cheap drinks and food, the rest of us will struggle."

The landlady of the Golden Lion, Jenny Marks, said trade was being spread too thin.

With Pizza Express looking to move into the old Woolworth's site and now JD Wetherspoon hopeful of securing a site, she said established businesses would be put under serious pressure.

She said: "It has been a tough few years for the trade as we deal with the smoking ban and the cheap drinks sold at supermarkets."

She said customers would move on to JD Wetherspoon because of the prices, which is something she could do nothing about. "I buy my beer barrels at a fixed price from the brewery – there's not much room to change the price of a pint so if the new pub opens I won't be able to compete."

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