Reports that JD Wetherspoon is planning to move upmarket continue to oscillate through the press with all the 'oh yes it is; oh no it isn't' flummery of a pantomime dame.
In the last couple of days Wetherspoon shares have shot up 12p as both national and trade press trumpet the forthcoming opening of Wetherspoon's new Peterborough bar - which will be non-smoking throughout, have a couple of extra dishes on the regular menu and also sell 'world beers' - as a sign the company is re-inventing itself.
"These reports are based on tosh," was the frank response of spokesman Eddie Gershon. "The new Wetherspoon's will not be a new concept as such. All of our pubs evolve and that is what we are doing in Peterborough."
However, the Wetherspoon team is no stranger to making somewhat disingenuous pronouncements which keep speculation about the company's activities high on the agenda of both City and press.
What is clear is that chairman Tim Martin is putting his money where his mouth is with the roll-out of non-smoking venues ahead of proposed government anti-smoking legislation. His colleague Mr Gershon confirmed that all new Wetherspoon's would have a blanket ban on smoking.
Further questioning revealed that the three week old non-smoking Exeter venue - ex-smoker Mr Martin's local - was "packed" and "proving a great success". The new Peterborough venue, which is to open mid-February, will certainly be closely watched by the industry as it gears up to deal with a future ban on smoking in all venues with food.
Licensees glory in Wetherspoon smoking ban (27 January 2005)
JD Wetherspoon to ban smoking in all its pubs (24 January 2005)
Wetherspoon shares go up in smoke (24 January 2005)