JD Wetherspoon (JDW.L) has confirmed it will reopen all its pubs on 4 July, in line with government guidance.
Prime minister Boris Johnson announced on Tuesday that pubs and other hospitality businesses could reopen from next month provided they follow new COVID-19 health and safety measures. These include making sure all customers are at least one metre apart and taking risk mitigation measures such as erecting screens between customers and limiting contact between servers and visitors.
JD Wetherspoon said on Wednesday it had consulted with staff to draw up the ‘Wetherspoon COVID-19 Secure Operating Plan’, based on 3,000 submissions from employees. Changes include temperatures taken at the door, plexiglass screens at the tills, and at least 10 hand sanitiser points in each pub.
JD Wetherspoon operates over 800 pubs across the UK and has spent around £11m ($13.7m) making them “COVID secure”, according to the Daily Mirror.
A survey of Wetherspoon’s staff found 98% of respondents intend to return to work when pubs reopen, although just over 4,000 cant’ return immediately, due to things like maternity leave, caring responsibilities, or health issues — 388 of its near 45,000 staff said they intend to quit.
JD Wetherspoon said 79 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. All but 5 have fully recovered.
A further 834 staff members suspect they have contracted COVID-19 but have not had it confirmed through a test — 54 are still unwell.
JD Wetherspoon said two staff members died at the end of April after testing positive for COVID-19.
“Our condolences go to their families, friends and colleagues,” the company said in a statement.
Alongside the update on reopening, JD Wetherspoon said it had raised £48.3m through the government-backed coronavirus large business interruption loan scheme (CLBILS). The pub group raised £141m selling new shares to investors in April.
The pub group said annual results would also be delayed until October as a result of the crisis.
JD Wetherspoon was criticised for its early handling of the novel coronavirus crisis.
Boss Tim Martin initially urged the public to continue visiting JD Wetherspoons in March, despite guidance from the government to avoid pubs.
When lockdown was ordered, Martin then told staff they would face delays being paid and urged them to seek work at supermarkets like Tesco instead. Wetherspoon eventually backtracked and agreed to pay staff. However, it faced similar scrutiny of its decision to ask suppliers to wait for payment on stock already delivered.
Rachel Reeves MP, then chair of the business select committee, said she had “deep concerns” about Martin’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis in March.