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Could Wetherspoons stop selling Stella and Budweiser soon?

Wetherspoons and AB InBev are locked into a high court dispute over the beer that is sold from T-bar fonts at the value chain’s pubs.

According to reports from The Times, the dispute could threaten the popular beer brands Stella Artois and Budweiser being sold in Wetherpoons pubs if the situation is not resolved soon.

The reports outlined how, back in November 2021, JD Wetherspoon displaced its 42 year contract with Heineken and appointed ABI’s UK subsidiary, Budweiser Brewing Group as its lead brewer in a 20-year deal. However, the contract allegedly outlined that Wetherspoons should display a pre-agreed number of ABI’s beers, such as its Budweiser and Stella Artois, on the T-bars.

In the ongoing legal battle, Wetherspoons boss Tim Martin reportedly claims both companies assumed ABI was responsible for the T-bars and yet ABI denies the claim and has stated that the work must be subject to a separate agreement. Additionally, to seek clarification, Wetherspoons’ Martin is said to be seeking a declaration that ABI is responsible, however if the court rules Wetherspoons is in fact responsible, it is alleged that Martin will seek a temporary injunction to stop ABI ending its beer deal with his chain.

The issue, which essentially comes down to price as well as positioning, has seen the dispute include court documents showing how, last year, ABI sought price hikes amidst inflation and the brewing giant repeatedly complaining that its arrangement with Wetherspoons had become “uncommercial”.

It has also been argued that ABI argued Wetherspoons’ case was simply a “transparent attempt” to rewrite its deal due to its own “material breaches” of contract which include failing to display a sufficient number of its beers on the T-bars.

As a result of the dispute, ABI is seeking a declaration that should mean it has the right to end the contract, even though it has stated that its preference is not to do so, as long as Wetherspoons carries out its work of keeping its beers on the T-bars as its deal initially agreed.

However, in the event that ABI does terminate its agreement with Wetherspoons, the brewer has reportedly counter-claimed for damages which could cost the pub chain boss millions in addition to needing to provide compensation for additional lost sales and profits.

In response to the court battle, a spokesperson for Wetherspoons reassured: “We value our commercial relationship with Budweiser and hope that the dispute can be resolved as quickly as possible.”

Wetherspoons has said it is “cautiously optimistic” about future profits, with the company reporting a 13% rise in like-for-like sales for the six months ending 29 January 2023.

Back in January, Wetherspoons Martin, known widely for his bargain prices and a culprit for devaluing the image of beer owing to its pricing methods, hosted a ‘January Sale’ across its pubs with some of its beers being priced at just 99p per pint.

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