Wetherspoons could soon return to Derry, three years after pulling out of the city when it sold its two pubs to The Granny Annie’s group.
Just this week the company, which already has 875 pubs, announced it is to plough £200 million into new openings, and enlargements of a string of bars and hotels across the UK, and the Republic of Ireland creating 10,000 jobs over the next four years.
The Diamond Bar and The Ice Wharf in Derry had been offloaded along with three other pubs in Northern Ireland in 2016, but Tim Martin, Wetherspoons founder and chairman said: “We would like to go back to Derry if we can find the right building with a garden.
“We just got it slightly wrong there. We had a very expensive lease. Then we opened the second pub down on The Strand, which just killed [the pub in The Diamond], we didn’t have enough trade for two.
“We just didn’t get it right.”
Martin, who went to school in the North in his teens, said I think we could go back now and do better.”
The Granny Annie’s Group, run by Limavady brothers Willis and Ryan McLaughlin, are thought to have paid £3 million at the time for five of Northern Ireland’s nine Wetherspoons pubs: The Old Courthouse in Coleraine, The Spinning Mill in Ballymena, The Linen Hall in Enniskillen and the two in Derry.
The expansion announcement this week, which also marks 40 years since the opening of the first JD Wetherspoons pub, will see new pubs in Dublin, Galway, and Waterford in the Republic, as well as Birmingham, London, Leeds, and Glasgow. Most of the investment will be in small and medium-sized towns.
Martin said: “We are looking forward to opening many more new pubs as well as investing in existing pubs over the next four years.
“We are especially pleased that a large proportion of the investment will be in smaller towns and cities which have seen a decline in investment in recent years.”