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JD Wetherspoon releases plans to reopen 875 pubs – with staff to monitor social distancing

Samuel Osborne
REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

JD Wetherspoon has revealed plans to open 875 of its pubs with staff on hand to monitor social distancing and temperature checks for employees.

The chain said it was investing £11m to ensure the safety of its customers and staff when it gets the green light from the government to reopen.

It will operate with a “slightly reduced menu” and hand sanitiser dispensers will be placed around the pub, as well as at the entrance.

Staff will also have to complete a daily health assessment questionnaire and have their temperatures checked before they can work, and the chain said it would provide gloves, masks and protective eyewear.

Customers will enter through on entrance door and exit through another, where possible, which will be marked out by stickers on the floor or barriers.

Patrons will be asked to use the Wetherspoon app to order and pay for food, however they will also be able to pay at the bar using credit/debit cards and contactless – cash will also be accepted.

Staff will hand over drinks holding the base of the glass and when ordered by the app they will be delivered on a tray and placed on the table using the base of the glass.

Sachets of ketchup, mayonnaise, salt and pepper will be provided rather than the typical condiment bottles.

Screens will also be used to create seating areas where it is not possible to separate tables to social distancing requirements.

A dedicated member of staff will be used to monitor the pub at all times to maintain social distancing, and each pub will have two employees working full time to sanitise all contact points during opening hours, with more employed in larger pubs.

Such contact points include door handles, allergen information screens, card payment machines and hand rails.

Pubs were ordered to close on 20 March, days before the government implemented a lockdown to curtail the coronavirus crisis.

Wetherspoon’s founder and chairman, Tim Martin, was heavily criticised as the lockdown came into force.

He initially said he would withhold salaries from staff before backing down, and also called for a relaxed lockdown similar to that in the Netherlands so his pubs could remain open.

Since then, the chain has revealed the business rates holiday announced by the government saved it £60m and shareholders were tapped for £141m as the lockdown began.

“At present the government have not confirmed any reopening date for pubs,” Wetherspoon chief executive John Hutson said.

“However, it is important that we are prepared for any announcement.

“We have spent a number of weeks consulting with staff who work in our pubs, as well as area managers in order to draw up our plans.

“We have received more than 2,500 suggestions from our staff.

“The safety of our staff and customers is paramount.”

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