BRITISH pub chain JD Wetherspoon plans to open 200 new pubs across Ireland and Britain over the next five years.
The company, which will shortly open new pubs in Swords, Blanchardstown and Camden St in Dublin - as well as in Cork City and Waterford, said it will invest £400m (€510m) in developing the pubs - 30 of which will be in Ireland.
"We are looking forward to opening the new pubs, many of which will be in areas where Wetherspoon is not yet represented," Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin said.
Wetherspoon currently operates 931 pubs and employs more than 34,000 staff.
It recently made headlines for dropping Heineken products from its offering after a dispute over supply for its Irish pubs.
Wetherspoons opened its new pub, the Forty Foot, overlooking Dun Laoghaire Harbour, with neither Guinness or Murphy's stout on tap nor Heineken or Foster's lager.
Instead, kegs of two English-brewed stouts were on sale at the rock bottom price of €2.50 a pint - undercutting average Dublin prices by at least €2 a pint. A selection of Irish craft beers were also on sale, including the highly rated O'Hara's.
A selection of Irish, Czech, American and English lagers were also on offer at either €2.50 or €2.95 a pint - again a €2 or €2.50 discount on standard city prices.
And in a further blow to the established pub trade, Wetherspoons' two Irish pubs, the Forty Foot in Dun Laoghaire and the Three Tun Tavern in Blackrock, have slashed the price of vodka, gin, whiskey and other spirits.
Premium brand Absolut vodka is selling at €3.95 with a free mixer. An extra measure costs €2 so a double vodka and tonic costs €5.95 at the Forty Foot.
Even in the notably cheap Pavillion bar at Trinity a single vodka and tonic costs €5.60. In a trendy Temple Bar pub, admittedly among the most expensive pubs in the country, a standard spirit and baby mixer costs just shy of €10.
The pub chain insisted that the decision not to sell Guinness and other Diageo-supplied beers including Budweiser, Smithwick's and Carlsberg at the Three Tun Tavern in Blackrock, which opened in July, has not had a negative impact.