Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin has issued a call to arms to pubs and restaurants in an attempt to convince the government to slash "unfair" taxes levied on the sector.
The pub chain founder said tax policy is not only harming the pub sector, it is also forcing poorer people to drink at home as alcohol can be bought more cheaply from supermarkets.
Food sold in pubs is currently subject to VAT at 20 per cent, compared with the zero per cent rate for supermarket sales.
Furthermore, Martin said he had done the calculations and because of an "historical anomaly" believes pubs pay 16p in business rates per pint, compared with the two pence per pint supermarkets are levied.
“We strongly believe the disparity will harm the pub business," Martin told City A.M. “The government doesn't realise that’s what it's doing."
Especially in less affluent areas, it’s encouraging people to drink at home. It’s important to emphasise that’s also bad for the government because pubs are huge generators of tax, even if it’s reduced to the level of supermarkets.
He added: “The treasury should think of pubs as tax machines."
Backed by the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) and Association of Licensed Multiple Operators (ALMR) Martin is spearheading the campaign and putting his money where his mouth is by cutting the price of all food and drink across Wetherspoon's 900 UK pubs by 7.5 per cent on 20 September, so-called Tax Equality Day.
Wetherspoon is keen for other members of BBPA and ALMR to join in. Martin said: “We’re aiming to make it the busiest day of the entire year in our pubs and would urge other pub and restaurant operators to participate too.”
BBC Question Time
Martin, who is appearing on the BBC's Question Time this evening alongside fellow Brexiteer, Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, said he is confident the government will change its mind eventually. He said: “I think there will definitely be a tax parity between pubs and supermarkets eventually. It’s just a question of whether the government is in a grammar school or slow learning class."
But he was more hesitant when it came tonight's debate. He said:
I’m the token non-politician... I’m not sure I’m looking forward to being on there anyway but we’ll see. Nothing like a bit of pressure.