Tim Martin hits out at UK’s Covid policies as Wetherspoons sales linger below pre-pandemic levels
JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin has hit out at the UK’s Covid restrictions after warning the pub group is still suffering from the adverse effects of Covid-19.
The pub company said its sales had failed to return to pre-pandemic levels as it posted losses of £30.4m for the past financial year, on the back of 4.3 per cent lower revenues compared to before the pandemic in 2019.
Wetherspoons said the drop in revenues is a result of a shift in behaviour that has seen pub goers increasingly begin drinking at home.
“During lockdown, dyed-in-the-wool pub-goers, many for the first time, filled their fridges with supermarket beer – and it has proved to be a momentous challenge to persuade them to return to the more salubrious environment of the saloon bar,” Wetherspoons said.
The Watford headquartered company said the predicted “post-lockdown boom” had failed to materialise as it said publicans had instead experienced “painstakingly slow” recoveries paired with “great inflation in costs”.
The firm however noted that’s it results are up 125 per cent compared to the “annus horribilis” of 2021. Whetherspoons now has nine fewer pubs than in 2021 and 27 fewer pubs than in 2019.
Commenting on the results, JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin said the “biggest threat to the hospitality industry” going forwards is “the possibility of further lockdowns and restrictions” as he hit out at the UK government’s Covid restrictions.
The pub group chairman said the UK’s Covid restrictions were “jettisoned, early on in the pandemic, in favour of copying China’s lockdown approach” as he argued the country’s restrictions have had little impact on deaths.
Martin said the “other major threat to the hospitality industry is the huge and unjustifiable tax advantage that supermarkets enjoy” as he said the “competitive disadvantage” faced by pubs “will undoubtedly result in long-term financial weakness”.