The chairman of the pub chain Wetherspoon’s is calling on the government to open pubs at the same time as non-essential shops.
Tim Martin said that the pub industry was “on its knees” and needed to reopen to save jobs. He said pubs made a huge contribution to the economy, with Wetherspoon’s alone paying about £10 of tax for every £1 of profit it makes.
He said: “In the last 10 years, Wetherspoon’s has generated £6.1bn of taxes, something we are very proud of. In the financial year to July 2019, before the pandemic, Wetherspoon’s, its customers and employees generated £764m of taxes – £1 in every thousand collected by the UK government. Many people have correctly pointed out that the three lockdowns of the last year have been a disaster for the hospitality, retail, arts and entertainment industries, but our calculations show that they have been an even bigger disaster for public finances.”
Martin added that taxes paid by Wetherspoon’s were mirrored by thousands of companies that have been “annihilated” by Covid restrictions, which have had a knock-on effect on government income. “As a result, government finances have been annihilated even more,” he said.
Martin said Wetherspoon’s had registered more than 50m customer visits to its pubs, using the test-and-trace system, without a single outbreak of Covid-19, as defined by the health authorities. He maintained that hospitality groups had provided the government with information that “clearly demonstrates” that pubs and restaurants were Covid-secure environments, following the investment of hundreds of millions of pounds in safety and hygiene measures.
“The government knows this is correct, since it has access to test-and-trace information. Yet the government has ignored this information and has even banned golf – the ultimate social distancing sport.”
He added: “Surely it is possible for the hospitality industry to reopen at the same time as non-essential shops, now that a vaccine exists, on the basis of the social distancing and hygiene regulations. Unless the industry does reopen on that basis, economic mayhem will inevitably follow.”