Wetherspoon slumps to first annual loss as boss attacks UK Covid curbs

Marco Green
October 18, 2020

Explaining the difficulties the pub and restaurant chain has faced this year, JD Wetherspoon stated in its preliminary results that "mainly as a result of the lockdown, there have been substantial further "knock-on" effects on the sales and profits of our third-party suppliers and contractors, ranging from large worldwide brewers to architects, builders and small suppliers, such as window cleaners". The rule of six remains for pub or restaurant gardens.

'There is a need for a more sensible and consistent regulatory framework in which to operate'.

Mr Martin told Sky News: "We are trying very hard to minimise job cuts and we were really confident we could revive the pub business if we stuck to social distancing and hand washing and other things which work and were agreed, but that's all called into question now".

The pub operator, run by chairman Tim Martin who is an outspoken opponent of coronavirus restrictions, reported a 34 million pound ($44 million) pretax loss for the year to July 26, versus a profit of 102 million a year earlier.

Pub chain JD Wetherspoon swung to its first an annual loss, blaming the United Kingdom government's coronavirus lockdown measures, and said the latest set of curbs had led to a 15% fall in like-for-like sales in the first 11 weeks of the current fiscal year.

Last month it was announced that 66 Wetherspoon staff members working at 50 sites had recorded positive cases of Covid-19.

Mr Martin said that although the safety measures introduced to allow reopening were tough on pubs "because it reduced capacity dramatically", the industry was "gradually getting used to it". "But what's happened under emergency powers, the government is making a lot of changes which we think in the industry are arbitrary [and] don't work, like the curfew and that's making life nearly impossible".

UK Hospitality, which represents the industry, has warned that the new Tier 2 restrictions due to come into force in London and Essex could lead to 250,000 people losing their jobs unless firms are given additional financial support.

"Whether Wetherspoons is approaching its darkest hour - and indeed, the hospitality sector in general - remains to be seen, but the current situation is unquestionably parlous", said Richard Hunter, head of markets at Interactive Investor.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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