Wetherspoon sinks to colossal Covid losses

Wetherspoon pubs have reported a sales nosedive. Pic: Archant

Wetherspoon pubs have reported a sales nosedive. Pic: Archant - Credit: Archant

Budget pub chain JD Wetherspoon, which has outlets across Norfolk and Waveney, has taken a massive financial hit during the coronavirus outbreak.

The company suffered an eye-watering £556 million year-on-year sales dive equaling total losses of £105.4m.

Wetherspoon said it saw an increase in business in the weeks following the easing of lockdown but the new restrictions and 10pm curfew have seen this fall back.

One-off costs due to Covid-19 hit £29 million, including £5.9 million in drinks and food that had to be thrown away, £6.2 million on PPE, screens and other equipment to make pubs Covid- secure, and £17.1 million on staff costs.

However, the company benefited from a £15.9 million payout from HMRC over a long-term gaming machine dispute.

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The loss is the first time founder and chairman Tim Martin’s chain has sunk into the red since 1984 but the company remains confident that it can continue to trade.

No details were provided on potential or recent job losses but two pubs were opened and nine were sold or closed.

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Mr Martin instead attacked politicians and the media who reported that the company was considering withholding wages at the start of lockdown in March - a decision that was eventually not taken, with workers paid throughout.

Outbreaks of the virus among employees were limited, the company said, with only one instance where local authority health officials found insufficient social distancing in staff-only areas, which “probably resulted in four staff members testing positive”.

Numerous members of staff at the Gorleston pub were forced to self isolate after a minor outbreak earlier this year.