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

Pubs are being hit by measures to control coronavirus     AFP

Pubs are being hit by measures to control coronavirus AFP

Pubs, restaurants and other leisure businesses were ordered to shut early across England last month, and a three-tier system now requires pubs and bars in areas of "very high" infections to close.

The loss after exceptional items is a sharp reversal from the £95.4m pre-tax profit reported in the previous year.

"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 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", he added. He said trade had picked up when pubs reopened in July, helped by the "sensational" success of the government-funded "Eat Out to Help Out" scheme in August and cuts in sales tax.

The pub operator also stated that up to 450 jobs at its airport sites were at risk, with a spokesperson confirming to the BBC that 108 head office staff had so far been made redundant. Wetherspoons cut some beer prices under the banner "Sunak's Specials" and offered food deals called "Dishi Rishi".

Lambasting the government's handling of the COVID-19 crisis, Mr Martin argued that the United Kingdom should adopt the Swedish approach to allow his pubs to open again properly.

Rival pub chain Marston's on Thursday announced it was cutting 2,150 jobs as new restrictions, including a mandatory 10:00 pm closing time, began to take hold. Mr Martin said sales of drinks that appeal to younger people had risen as a proportion of the total, with shooters and cocktails overtaking real ale.

It said they were "disproportionate" and would have a "catastrophic impact" for thousands working in the sector.

"In marked contrast to the consistency of the comparatively successful Swedish approach, which emphasises social distancing, hygiene and trust in the people, the erratic United Kingdom 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".

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