JD Wetherspoon has reported that it swung to a loss and revenues plunged by more than half in the six months to January as the latest coronavirus lockdown took its toll.
Wetherspoon’s said revenues fell by 54% from £933m to £431m in the six months to 24 January, with the business making an overall pre-tax loss of £68m. In the same period last year the company, which runs 872 pubs across the UK, made a £35.7m profit.
Its outspoken founder and chairman, Tim Martin, a regular critic of the UK government’s decision-making during the pandemic, criticised the regulations that have been put in place.
“It is disappointing that so many regulations, implemented at tremendous cost to the nation, appear to have had no real basis in common sense or science,” Martin said. “For example, curfews, ‘substantial meals’ with drinks, and masks for bathroom visits. The future of the industry, and of the UK economy, depends on a consistent set of sensible policies, and the ending of lockdown and tier systems, which have created economic and social mayhem and colossal debts, with no apparent health benefits.”
The company is preparing to open beer gardens, roof-top gardens and patios at 394 of its pubs in England in line with Boris Johnson’s plans for relaxing Covid-19 physical-distancing restrictions through the spring and summer.
However, Martin said: “It remains to be seen whether the government will adhere to its reopening plan, following the successful vaccination programme – or whether the kneejerk reaction to the latest news, which seems to have been the main generator of policy and regulations, will continue.”
Wetherspoon’s also revealed that on Thursday it secured a £51.7m loan from the government’s coronavirus large business interruption loan scheme. This takes its total in government support to £100m, after a £48.3m loan secured last August.
In January, Wetherspoon’s announced plans to expand by buying up property after prices plunged because of the pandemic, raising almost £94m in a new share placing.
In October, Wetherspoon’s revealed a £105m loss for the year to the end of July, the first loss since the pub chain was founded in 1979.