Wetherspoons is facing a huge blow over certain beers after a row broke over work in relation to work on its "T-bars" at its hundreds of pubs.
The restaurant chain is facing a pricing dispute with the world's biggest brewer – AB InBev, who supply the likes of Stella Artois and Budweiser – putting their relationship into jeopardy.
In November 2021, JD Wetherspoon appointed ABI’s UK subsidiary, Budweiser Brewing Group, as its lead brewer on a 20-year contract, displacing Heineken after 41 years, reported The Times.
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When the deal was first struck up it stipulated that Wetherspoons would display a pre-agreed number of ABI’s beers on the “T-bars” that sit atop the bars in its 843 pubs.
But a High Court dispute has come to light over concerns which company was responsible for that work, with Wetherspoons claiming that both companies assumed ABI was responsible.
Wetherspoons argued that it was standard industry practice.
However, ABI denies this, saying the work must be subject to a separate agreement.
In court, Wetherspoons is seeking a declaration that ABI is responsible.
If the court rules in ABI's favour and finds that Wetherspoons is responsible then it is seeking a temporary injunction to stop the “real and substantial threat” of ABI terminating the contract.
Court documents show ABI sought price increases last year amid rampant inflation.
Wetherspoons, where a pint of Stella costs only £3.60, claims ABI repeatedly complained the arrangement had become “uncommercial”.
The brewer, it said, indicated it might walk away if prices did not increase and said it had the right to withhold supply, but ABI has denied it threatened to withhold supply.
The brewers argued Wetherspoons’ case was a “transparent attempt” to rewrite the agreement in order to excuse its own “material breaches” of contract.
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The company said the court case has arisen from the failure to display a sufficient number of its beers on the T-bars.
The brewer is seeking a declaration that it has the right to end the contract, saying its preference was not to do so, as long as Wetherspoons carried out the work.
ABI has counter-claimed for damages in the event that it does end the agreement. If it had terminated the deal on January 27, for example, ABI claims it would be eligible for damages of £9.9 million, in addition to compensation for lost sales and profits.
A Wetherspoons spokesman said that, regrettably, it had no choice but to commence legal action.
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