England v Colombia: Supplies ‘back to normal’ at Wetherspoon for World Cup clash after C02 shortage

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Wetherspoon said it will be business as usual ahead of England’s crucial World Cup clash after a CO2 shortage ran the risk of pubs with no beer.

The pubs giant, which had been unable to serve some drinks on draft, said supplies are getting back to normal and the situation should be resolved by Tuesday morning - just hours ahead of England’s knock-out showdown with Colombia.

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The good news for football fans came after some pub chains reported they had temporarily run out or were short of John Smith’s, Strongbow, Amstel and Birra Moretti as disruption to supplies of CO2 began to take effect at the bar.

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A spokesman for JD Wetherspoon said on Monday morning: “A high number of our pubs had been unable to serve three products on draft - John Smith’s, Strongbow, Strongbow Dark Fruits.

“Supplies of these products across all of the company’s pubs is almost back to normal and the issue is set to be resolved by tomorrow (Tuesday morning).

“So in effect, all getting back to normal and no more issues expected.”

The spokesman said pubs that were not able to serve the unavailable drinks still had a choice of 14 other draft, lager, cider and real ale drinks, pointing out that they were “a long, long way from running out of drink”.

The shortages are understood to have been caused by a longer than usual break in production of ammonia, one of the key sources of food grade CO2 in Europe - which is used to carbonate drinks and preserve some packed fresh foods.

Trade journal Gas World said the shortage had been described as the “worst supply situation to hit the European carbon dioxide (CO2) business in decades”.

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Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said brewers across the country are “working their socks off around the clock” to ensure there is still plenty of beer to go around.

She added: “The UK can produce as much as 10 million pints of beer per day, and with signs of things improving, pubs will certainly not be running dry.

“Our message to beer drinkers and England fans is clear: keep calm and carry on going to the pub.

“If your usual beer of choice isn’t available, then why not use it as an opportunity to try something new?”

Even teetotallers who prefer to keep hydrated with a soft drink have been affected by the shortage - with Coca-Cola describing the situation as “challenging”.

A Coca-Cola European Partners Great Britain spokesman said: “We are working hard to limit the impact of the industry-wide shortage of CO2 on the availability of our products in Great Britain.

“The situation remains challenging due to the ongoing restrictions to CO2 supply, coupled with the recent hot weather, however all of our factories are running well and we continue to fulfil the vast majority of customer orders.”

Mark O’Neill, from The Beer & Gas Man, which provides CO2 to about 750 customers - including pubs, clubs and hotels - in the West Midlands, said the good weather and World Cup have made the problem a “perfect storm”.

He said businesses are so desperate that one was prepared to drive to Leicester from Brighton and pay five times over the usual price for two cylinders.

Mr O’Neill said the company ran out of CO2 last Tuesday after rationing supplies.

“It’s a perfect storm really with the weather and the football, especially the way the World Cup’s going,” he said.

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Stonegate Pub Company, which owns the Slug and Lettuce chain, said all its pubs and bars are running as usual.

Guinness said it had seen no impact so far, but is in close contact with suppliers and customers to mitigate any potential issues.

Mitchells & Butlers, which owns All Bar One, Harvester and O’Neill’s pubs, said it is not expecting supply issues and will continue to trade as normal.

Meanwhile, away from the pubs, Nick Allen, chief executive of the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA), said he fears it will be two to three weeks before things get back to normal.

Mr Allen said he understands that a CO2 plant is due to restart on Monday, but added that it will take about a fortnight or so before that begins to filer through.