JD Wetherspoon's Tim Martin slams restrictions as 'capricious and damaging'

By James Halliwell

- Last updated on GMT

JD Wetherspoon's Tim Martin slams restrictions as 'capricious and damaging' £34m losses reported

Related tags: Wetherspoon, Tim martin

JD Wetherspoon has released its full year results, which lay bare the impact of the Coronavirus on sales and profits.

Sales were down 30.6% to £1,262m, with the company making a pre-tax loss of £34.1m - down 133% on the previous year.

Chairman Tim Martin slammed the Government’s handling of the Coronavirus pandemic and the effect it’s having on the hospitality industry.

“For the two months following reopening, it appeared that the hospitality industry, in difficult circumstances, was adapting to the new regime and was getting ‘back on its feet’, albeit in survival mode,” he said.

“It appears that the government and its advisers were clearly uncomfortable as the country emerged from lockdown. They have introduced, without consultation, under emergency powers, an ever-changing raft of ill-thought-out regulations - these are extraordinarily difficult for the public and publicans to understand and to implement. None of the new regulations appears to have any obvious basis in science.

“For example, a requirement for table service was introduced - which is expensive to implement and undermines the essential nature of pubs for many people - pubs have now become like restaurants. Customers can approach the till in a shop, but not in a pub - which is, in no sense, ‘scientific’.

“In addition, face-coverings, for which the health benefits are debatable, need not be worn while seated, yet must be worn to go to visit the bathroom - another capricious regulation.

“The most damaging regulation relates to the 10pm curfew, which has few supporters outside of the narrow cloisters of Downing Street and SAGE meetings. This has meant that many thousands of hospitality industry employees, striving to maintain hygiene and social-distancing standards, go off duty at 10pm, leaving people to socialise in homes and at private events which are, in reality, impossible to regulate.

“In marked contrast to the consistency of the comparatively successful Swedish approach, which emphasises social distancing, hygiene and trust in the people, the erratic UK government is jumping from pillar to post and is both tightening and tinkering with regulations, so we are now in quasi-lockdown which is producing visibly worse outcomes than those in Sweden, in respect of both health and the economy.

“Risk cannot be eliminated completely in pubs, but sensible social-distancing and hygiene policies, combined with continued assistance and co-operation from the authorities, should minimise it.

“Like-for-like sales in the first 11 weeks have been 15.0% below those of last year, with strong sales in the first few weeks, followed by a marked slowdown since the introduction of a curfew and other regulations, some of which are referred to above.

“The recent curfew and introduction of table service only have been particularly damaging for trade, depressing sales for customers who find it too much ‘faff’, at the same time as substantially increasing costs.

“As a result of recent changes in regulations, the outlook for pubs over the remainder of the current financial year is even more unpredictable than hitherto.”

“The company has successfully adapted its business, over the last 41 years, to cope with widely different political and economic circumstances. We now employ over 40,000 people, 10,000 of whom are shareholders in the company, and are a major contributor to national income, paying approximately one pound in every thousand of treasury receipts in 2019 and in preceding years.

“However, the company and the entire hospitality industry need a more sensible and consistent regulatory framework in which to operate - the current environment of lockdowns, curfews and constantly changing regulations and announcements threatens not only pub companies, but the entire economy. The most important lesson, as Professor Mark Woolhouse of Edinburgh University has said, is that 'lockdown just defers the problem; it doesn’t solve it'.”

Related topics: Business

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