Wetherspoons boss Tim Martin has demanded an end to the “mayhem” of lockdowns and tier restrictions as the pub chain slumped to a £68m half-year loss.

The company reported a 54% fall in revenues to £431m for the six months to 24 January as COVID measures left pubs closed for much of the period.

That sent Wetherspoons into the red, compared with a profit of £36m a year earlier.

Mr Martin, the pub group’s chairman and an outspoken critic of the government’s COVID-19 measures, called for “sensible policies” to help the hospitality sector recover.

He said companies had “made strenuous efforts” to comply with capacity, social distancing and hygiene regulations and that there had been “very few outbreaks of the virus in pubs”.

Wetherspoons’ results included “exceptional” one-off cash charges of £7.5m to cover items such as placing pub screens between tables as well as topping up wages for furloughed workers – whose pay is being 80% subsidised by the government.

Mr Martin said it “remains to be seen” if ministers would stick to the roadmap for reopening, under which pubs and restaurants may serve customers outside from 12 April and indoors from 17 May.

He claimed that “knee-jerk reaction to the latest news… seems to have been the main generator of policy and regulations” thus far.

Mr Martin said regulations implemented on previous reopening of the sector – such as curfews or the requirement to have a “substantial meal” with a drink – appeared “to have had no real basis in common sense or science”.

“The future of the industry, and of the UK economy, depends on a consistent set of sensible policies, and the ending of lockdowns and tier systems, which have created economic and social mayhem and colossal debts, with no apparent health benefits,” he said.

Wetherspoons, which runs 870 pubs in the UK, has previously announced that it will open patios, beer gardens and rooftop gardens at 394 pubs in England from 12 April.

Last autumn it reported its first annual loss in 36 years as the pandemic took its toll.

Mr Martin last month told Sky News that he aimed to bring back all 37,000 employees currently on furlough leave when his pubs reopen.

The British Beer and Pub Association has said that, for the industry as a whole, sales of beer in pubs fell by 56%, or £7.8bn, last year.

(c) Sky News 2021: COVID-19: Wetherspoons boss calls for end to lockdowns ‘mayhem’ as chain posts £68m loss


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