UPDATE 2-Pink gin with strawberries: Wetherspoon patrons defy Brexit gloom

* Sale of coffee, real ale and gin boost results * J D Wetherspoon keeps drink prices low * Costs remain high (Adds chairman, analyst comments) By Noor Zainab Hussain Sept 13 () – J D Wetherspoon’s pretax profit rose in the full year as its “cheap and cheerful” pubs pulled in customers seeking pink gin and coffee as well as traditional beer even as Brexit worries hurt overall consumer confidence and spending. Britain’s Wetherspoon, like most restaurant chains in the country, has been battling increased costs due to a minimum wage hike, higher property prices and power bills. It has also been investing in its more labour-intensive food and coffee business. It has however still managed to attract patrons to its more than 900 pubs in Britain and Ireland as it keeps drinks prices low, providing a cheaper alternatives for Britons who often face high costs to drink in pubs, restaurants and clubs. Pretax profit after exceptional items rose to 95.4 million pounds ($118.5 million) for the year ended July 28 from 89 million pounds a year earlier, although before exceptional items, it fell 4.5% to 102.5 million pounds. “Costs were quite high as we invest in the business and gardens and kitchens and people,” Chairman Tim Martin, a vocal Brexiteer, told . Initially called Martin’s Free House, Wetherspoon has also been spending to upgrade facilities at its older pubs. Total sales rose 7.4% to 1.82 billion pounds, while like-for-like sales rose by 6.8%, with a jump in bar and food sales. Senior market analyst Fiona Cincotta at Cityindex said the company had fared a lot better than many of its rivals. She warned however that the rate of sales growth had slowed, putting more pressure on the company’s already-thin margins. “J D Wetherspoon may be attracting plenty of people into its pubs but it’s luring them with such cheap prices that its margins have deteriorated,” she said. Rival Greene King said earlier this year that a wet summer and poor sentiment had hurt its sales in its new financial year. PINK GIN WITH STRAWBERRIES Wetherspoon’s like-for-like sales rose 5.9% for the six weeks to Sept. 8. Martin said growth recently and in the full year had come from the sale of coffee, real ale and also gin. “Everyone is drinking gin. Even the guys from the building sites down the road are drinking pink gin with strawberries. It is quite a revolution,” he said. The company’s performance comes at a time when the UK’s pub sector is brimming with deals. Greene King is set to be bought by Hong-Kong’s Ck Asset for 4.6 billion pounds, while Slug and Lettuce pub chain owner Stonegate has agreed to buy Ei Group for 1.27 billion pounds. ($1 = 0.8048 pounds) (Reporting by Noor Zainab Hussain and Tanishaa Nadkar in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Jan Harvey)Our Standards:The Thomson Trust Principles.