JD Wetherspoon's Tim Martin calls for pubs to reopen at the same time as non-essential retail

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

JD Wetherspoon's Tim Martin calls for pubs to reopen at the same time as non-essential retail

Related tags: Wetherspoon, Tim martin, Pub, Coronavirus, lockdown

JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin has called on the Government to reopen pubs at the same time as non-essential retail shops.

The pub boss says that the industry is 'on its knees' and that pubs across the UK need to reopen in order to save the industry and the associated jobs.

“Surely it is possible for the hospitality industry to reopen at the same time as non-essential shops, now that a vaccine exists, on the basis of the social distancing and hygiene regulations, which were agreed with the health authorities, after full consultation, for the July 4 reopening last year," says Martin.

“Unless the industry does reopen on that basis, economic mayhem will inevitably follow."

Martin, whose pub group operates more than 800 sites across the UK, says the industry makes a massive contribution to the economy, with Wetherspoon alone paying about £10 of tax for every pound of profit it makes.

“Many people have correctly pointed out that the three lockdowns of the last year have been a disaster for the hospitality, retail, arts and entertainment industries, but our calculations show that they have been an even bigger disaster for public finances," he continues.

“The taxes paid by Wetherspoon are mirrored by thousands of companies which have been annihilated by lockdowns. As a result, government finances have been annihilated even more.”

Martin says there are fears within the hospitality sector that the Government is 'playing a PR game' that creates an illusion of positive action, and will find an excuse to tie the industry down with restrictions.

“Since pubs reopened last summer, following the first lockdown, Wetherspoon has registered more than 50 million customer visits to its pubs, using the test and trace system, without a single outbreak of Covid-19, as defined by the health authorities, among customers in our pubs.

“Industry organisations UK Hospitality and the BBPA have provided the Government with information that clearly demonstrates that pubs and restaurants are Covid-secure environments, following the investment of hundreds of millions of pounds in safety and hygiene measures.

“The Government knows this is correct, since it has access to test and trace information.

“As the BBPA has pointed out, outbreaks have been concentrated in environments such as care homes, households and hospitals.

“Yet the Government has ignored this information."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will begin considering how restrictions in England may be eased ahead of a statement on February 22 setting out his 'roadmap' out of lockdown.

It is understood that, at present, the Government does plan to reopen non-essential retail before hospitality.

More than 60 ministers in the Covid Recovery Group (CRG) have sought to increase pressure on Johnson, insisting he commit to a clear timetable for the lifting of restrictions on the sector​.

In a letter, the group said pubs and restaurants must be able to open in a 'commercially viable manner' from Easter, and that all lockdown restrictions should come to an end as soon as the top nine priority groups are vaccinated by the end of April.

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