A man who built an app in his spare time that highlights independent pubs close to Wetherspoons venues, says he has been amazed by the response.
The Android app Neverspoons has been downloaded nearly 18,000 times in its first week – more than Shane Jones expected from the first six months.
It is currently top of the free app chart on Google Play.
The name is a pun on the pub chain Wetherspoons but Mr Jones said he just wanted to give smaller pubs a boost.
Mr Jones admitted that “a handful” of other chain pub venues had already crept on to the app and he said he planned to “weed out” those people had complained to him about – including one from the Slug and Lettuce chain and a few Greene King and Firkin franchises.
“It’s not easy to manually vet thousands of pubs,” he said.
Mr Jones has uploaded details of 2,500 pubs from around the UK so far and a further 971 have been submitted by drinkers and landlords.
One single contributor nominated 50 different pubs in Birmingham, he said.
Mr Jones, who is now working on the app with his friend, Ned Poulter, is attempting to vet them all by looking them up online – he is unable to visit any personally as he has an underlying health condition that requires him to shield.
He said: “The whole premise is, Wetherspoons is a massive chain and they don’t need as much help.”
Mr Jones was inspired after visiting a village near his home in Newton Le Willows – midway between Manchester and Liverpool – before lockdown and seeing lots of shuttered pubs.
In 2018 The Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) warned that 18 drinking establishments in the UK were going out of business every week and the pub trade has faced even more difficult times since before the pandemic.
Wetherspoon has 875 pubs and 58 hotels in the UK and Republic of Ireland and about 44,000 employees.
Founder Tim Martin caused controversy at the start of lockdown when he said furloughed staff might not be paid on time and suggested they took a job elsewhere.
The company declined to comment on the app.
Neverspoons is free to download and is available only on Android phones at the moment.
It works by showing the user where the nearest Wetherspoons is and then showing the independent pubs around it.
Mr Jones said he has made “a little bit of money” from carrying ads on it, and has received £200 in donations from supporters.
“It’s just a little side-project – I’m a web developer, not an app developer.”