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‘They’ve got pound signs in their eyeballs’: CAMRA boss on Wetherspoons ‘June re-opening’

PUBLISHED: 15:52 30 April 2020 | UPDATED: 08:39 01 May 2020

Paul Sandford, who runs the Railway Tavern, Dereham. Pic: Archant

Paul Sandford, who runs the Railway Tavern, Dereham. Pic: Archant

Pub landlords in Norfolk reckon they will not be open again until October – despite the Wetherspoon boss’ hopes for a June re-launch.

Philip Cutter at the Murderers, Timber Hill. Pic: ArchantPhilip Cutter at the Murderers, Timber Hill. Pic: Archant

Publicans, who said they were “heartbroken” at having to remain closed because of coronavirus, are not happy that the JD Wetherspoon chain had implied it may be looking to re-open nationwide in the next couple of months.

But since the furore over the firm’s optimistic outlook, boss Tim Martin issued a statement saying the June reference was just an “assumption for planning purposes”.

He said: “It’s total and complete cobblers, we have no insight whatsoever as to when pubs might re-open and no information from, or a hotline to, the government.

“We’ve made an assumption, just for planning purposes, that pubs might be allowed to open in late June – but we don’t know any more than anyone else.”

Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin. Pic: ArchantWetherspoon boss Tim Martin. Pic: Archant

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Any consideration that pubs might be open in June was met with derision by local publicans and those in the industry.

Norwich & District CAMRA vice-chairman Martin Ward. Pic: ArchantNorwich & District CAMRA vice-chairman Martin Ward. Pic: Archant

Norwich & District CAMRA vice-chairman Martin Ward said: “Wetherspoon pubs are always really busy so I don’t know how social distancing is going to work. I think it’s a real no no. I understand they don’t want to lose any more money but they’ve got pound signs in their eyeballs.”

Paul Sandford, who owns the Railway Tavern, Dereham, said: “To see our business, that we have built up over the last 10 years, being ripped apart is soul destroying, I feel heartbroken. This is a tough business anyway, and I can see pubs which have closed not re-opening.

“We are told that it will be October or November before re-opening of pubs is even considered. Wetherspoons are busy every day whereas a pub like mine ticks along nicely Monday-Friday and then is at full capacity Friday and Saturday so I can’t see how social distancing could work for us.

“I can’t see people rushing back to pubs either.”

Philip Cutter, landlord of the Murderers, in Timber Hill, Norwich, said: “Wetherspoons are wildly out of touch. We are all struggling and if I could, I’d open tomorrow but you have to think of public safety. If you can’t social distance sufficiently, you just can’t open. We have to be cautious, we know we are going to be the last industry allowed to get back up and running. I think we are looking at September, even later.

“Pubs are all about socialising, mixing with people but Tim Martin has a massive business so he’s got a big drive to get things open again.”

An online poll by this newspaper found 61% of people who took part said they would not be prepared to go into a pub in June.

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