Pub giant Wetherspoon apologises to Broadstairs microbrewer over ‘fork handles’ dispute

Mike toasts 'fork handles' victory

The owner of one of the UK’s smallest microbreweries is toasting success after an apology from pub chain giant Wetherspoon for using his trademark logo on an Instagram account.

The Four Candles in Broadstairs registered its crossed fork handles logo in 2015. But owner Mike Beaumont was dismayed to discover Wetherspoon pub The Four Candles in Oxford was using the image on its Instagram account.

The pub name and sign are a reference to the famous 1976 Two Ronnies sketch that starts with a customer walking into a hardware store and asking the shopkeeper for “fork handles”. Confusion over fork handles, or four candles, then ensues.

Ronnie Barker, who grew up in Oxford, is said to have been inspired to write the sketch whilst on a visit to Broadstairs to see his comedy partner, Ronnie Corbett.

Corbett had a holiday home next to the Charles Dickens pub and just along from H. E. Harrington’s general ironmonger business in York Street, that is famed for stocking everything you could possibly need. It is thought the shop was the prompt for Barker’s sketch.

The Four Candles pub was given the name because it was previously a hardware store and Sowell Street, where it is based, is not far from Harrington’s.

Dad-of-three Mike, who opened the micropub in 2012, followed by the site’s microbrewery in 2014, said: “”Wetherspoons in Oxford had always used a logo featuring four candles. So I created our own crossed fork handles signs out of two old garden tools I found at the bottom of a friend’s place.

“Once they were cleaned up and polished they looked great so one of our regulars made a glass-fronted display case for them. We used a stencil version on all our casks and then on all our bottled beers.

“It turned out that another customer runs the Trademark Cafe business in St Peter’s and suggested that we protect the logo in case anyone copied it. It wasn’t very expensive to do so I did.

“I was very surprised to hear that the Oxford ‘spoons had just cut and pasted it for their pub – but thought it was a mistake that could be put right with a phone call.”

But it did not turn out to be so simply resolved. When Mike called Wetherspoon’s HQ he says he was told there was no-one he could speak to in person and he would have to make his complaint online.

Mike said: “I got a bit annoyed when I rang them and was told that not only could I not talk to their manager but I wasn’t even allowed to know his or her name!

“They referred me to their online complaints system which took an hour of my time to fill in and attach a copy of our trademark registration. I got an automated response that said I should give them 20 days to respond. So I did.

“But when I heard nothing for 23 days I went back to the site where there was nothing to indicate it had even been looked at. There was just a big notice telling me my complaint ‘cannot be escalated’.

“By now I was beginning to get even more annoyed and my first thought was to put up a huge banner reading “Welcome To The Four Candles – Britain’s Smallest Wetherspoons” and wait for their legal department to come down on me like a ton of bricks and tell me to remove it.

“Then I would happily have agreed to do so – provided they stopped using our handles and went back to their old candles!”

Before resorting to the banner protest Mike called The Isle of Thanet News and we contacted Wetherspoon.

The chain has now apologised and agreed to remove the Instagram image.

A spokesman for Wetherspoon said:”Our customer service department has checked the records and can find nothing being received from a Mike Beaumont in the last couple of months, hence no response from the company.

“We can confirm that the pub did use a logo on Instagram, but did not knowingly copy their design from anywhere.

“However, as this has obviously caused concern, its use will be stopped immediately. It has already been removed from the pub’s Instagram account.

“We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”