The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) and Society for Independent Brewers (SIBA) has branded JD Wetherspoon poster promoting lower alcoholic beverage prices as “misleading”, following Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s announcement of a VAT reduction last week.
The poster, which includes the CAMRA logo and features the slogan “Sunak’s Specials” says: ‘Rishi Sunak, legend: the man who instigated tax inequality between supermarkets and pubs’ alongside an image of four ales and their reduced prices.
However, CAMRA and SIBA said VAT cuts do not apply and branded the poster as “misleading”, implying that beer prices are cheaper due to the VAT cuts.
In a joint statement Tom Stainer, CEO of CAMRA, and James Calder, CEO of SIBA, said: “A recent promotional poster from pub chain JD Wetherspoon has made it necessary for us to clarify that the chancellor’s temporary VAT reduction only applies to food served in pubs, and excludes alcoholic drink sales which many traditional local pubs rely on for survival.
“Like all pubs, Wetherspoons will not be able to benefit from a VAT reduction on beer sales and it is disappointing to see them potentially mislead customers into believing cheaper beer prices are as a direct result of the chancellor’s measures.”
They added: “It’s likely JDW can only offer these prices if it subsidises beer from increased profit on other revenue streams. Sadly, this is a strategy many independent, wet-led pubs do not have open to them.”
“We’d hope consumers do not mistakenly believe CAMRA or SIBA have endorsed this marketing approach – which we believe is unhelpful for the pub industry as a whole and masks the truth that this VAT reduction will not directly result in cheaper beer prices and does little to help a large proportion of Britain’s pubs and brewers.”
A spokesperson for JD Wetherspoon told Catering Today: “It is true that the Chancellor’s measures do not directly lead to lower beer prices. However publicans can choose to reduce prices for food, soft drinks and coffee etc or they can choose to keep those prices the same and reduce the prices of alcoholic products such as draught beer.
“Wetherspoon has chosen to apply about one third of the tax reduction to meals and about two thirds of the tax reduction to draught beer. Individual publicans can make their choice and most are aware that supermarkets have used their tax advantage over pubs(i.e. they pay no VAT on food sales) to reduce the price of beer, wine and spirits.”
They added: “The main effect of the historic tax inequality in respect of VAT on food has been that the price disparity between supermarkets and pubs in respect of beer has widened inexorably. In Wetherspoon’s opinion, sensible publicans will ignore CAMRA/SIBA and seek to close the gap in beer prices.
“CAMRA/SIBA believe Wetherspoon’s marketing approach is “unhelpful for the pub industry as a whole abd will not directly result in cheaper beer prices.”