Under a pound a pint: Pubs cut beer prices to ‘help’ amid crisis
January 14, 2009
A bad economy in the U.K. is translating into cheaper beer at the country’s largest pub chain, with certain pints now costing just 99 pence, the lowest price in decades.
J.D. Wetherspoon, which runs more than 700 pubs across the country including Newmarket’s The Golden Lion and The Regal in Cambridge, drastically dropped prices last week on bottles of San Miguel and pints of Greene King IPA. The average cost of a pint these days is about 2.75 pounds.
Bottles of wine are also now being sold for less than a fiver, while selected meals will sell at about 3 pounds.
There is no set date for the price slash to end, Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon said last week.
Airman 1st Class Austin Orthman of Mildenhall said gas and other logistics often keep him sipping suds at the base club or at dorm parties, but he wasn’t averse to cheaper pints.
"It’s good that they’re dropping the price," he said.
The move is a direct reaction to the plummeting British economy, Gershon said.
"We think it’s a way of saying to people, ‘we know you like coming to our pubs, and we appreciate you have less money nowadays,’ " Gershon said. "The way the economy is now, people have to look closer at their money. We’re aware of that."
The Wetherspoon price cut could start a price war between pub chains, according to The Publican, an industry newspaper.
The Town & City Pub Company, which runs more than 150 pubs under the Yates’s and Litten Tree brands, told The Times newspaper this month that it would immediately start reviewing its pint prices as a result of the Wetherspoon move.
"At that price, you’ve got to respond," Town & City chairman Ian Payne told The Times. "All the high street operators will, in one form or another, have to respond or they’ll nick your business, especially in this climate."
George Arkell, director of the 100 pub-strong Arkell’s Brewery, told The Publican that a 99p pint of beer is a "gimmick."
"Selling the beer at less than it costs to brew would be a short-term stunt which will not benefit either breweries, pubs or our customers in the long term," he said.
There are also concerns about the long-term social consequences of such price cuts in a country that loves its drinking.
The price cut is being pitched as a service to a population struggling to make ends meet, but alcohol isn’t a commodity like bread or milk, according to Carys Davis, a spokeswoman for Alcohol Concern.
"It’s something most people consider a luxury item," Davis said.
In the end, she said, too much drinking could be aggravated by 99p pints and end up costing society a lot more than the coins in people’s pockets.
"Alcohol misuse in this country costs about 25 billion (pounds) a year," Davis said. "In the long run, the cost of cheap alcohol is actually very great to the economy."