Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin has said the pub industry is “on its knees” and that pubs across the UK need to reopen at the same time as non-essential shops to save the industry and associated jobs.
Martin, who oversees the operations of 872 pub venues in the UK, said the industry makes a vast contribution to the economy, with Wetherspoon’s alone paying about “£10 of tax for every pound of profit it makes”.
It is the latest plea made to the government by those in hospitality to reopen the sector, with The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) last week urging UK officials for a clear timeline and date for when it can resume trading.
The chairman who has previously labelled the UK’s decisions surrounding Covid-19 as “reckless”, said that the “big worry” in the hospitality industry is that the government is playing a “PR game”.
Adding that the government is “creating an illusion of positive action, and will find an excuse to tie the industry down with restrictions for example, allowing outside eating and drinking only when the pubs reopen”.
He added if this was the case it would result in the entire industry to be “heavily loss-making”.
Martin said: “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.”
He added: “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 and has even banned golf – the ultimate social distancing sport.”