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Wetherspoons sinks to heaviest loss on record from Covid lockdowns

·2-min read

JD Wetherspoons has recorded its biggest loss on record as the business suffered heavily from the Covid-19 restrictions which hit the sector.

In the 12 months to 25 July, the pub chain sunk to a pre-tax loss of £154.7m, compared to a £34.1m loss a year ago. Sales were also down from £1.26bn to £772.6m.

This is only the third year the company has recorded a loss in its 37-year history.

Founder and chairman Tim Martin said he remained hopeful for the future and customers were starting to return since lockdown restrictions eased in the summer.

Mr Martin criticised the government’s handling of the pub sector during the pandemic calling the use of lockdowns “a threat to civil society and democracy”.

The Wetherspoons chief is now in a race to fill employment vacancies in struggling areas. 

“On average, Wetherspoon has received a reasonable number of applications for vacancies, as indicated by the increase in employee numbers, but some areas of the country, especially ‘staycation’ areas in the west country and elsewhere, have found it hard to attract staff,” he said. 

“During the pandemic, the pressure on pub managers and staff has been particularly acute, with a number of nationwide and regional pub closures and reopenings, often with very little warning, each of which resulted in different regulations.”

Although pubs were entitled to government support under the furlough scheme, it has been one of the hardest-hit sectors during the pandemic, facing lengthy closures and rule changes. 

Wetherspoons has also been impacted by the ongoing HGV drivers shortage leading to supply chain issues.

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Mr Martin did not comment on the shortages or any impact it is having on Wetherspoons, nor did the high-profile Brexit supporter try to play down links between the HGV shortages with the UK leaving the EU.

He instead questioned the use of lockdown restrictions by the government: “The biggest threat to the pub industry, and also, inter alia, to restaurants, theatres, cinemas, airlines and travel companies, relates to the precedent set by the government for the use of lockdowns and draconian restrictions, imposed under emergency powers.”

Watch: Staff shortages could last up to two years, says CBI

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