Coronavirus: Tim Martin attacks ‘confusion’ over rules as Wetherspoon posts £105m pre-tax loss

Chairman says industry believe changes are 'arbitrary’

Zoe Tidman
Friday 16 October 2020 13:14 BST
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Tim Martin attacks ‘confusion’ over rules as Wetherspoon posts £105m pre-tax loss

Wetherspoon have announced a pre-tax loss of £105m, as founder Tim Martin attacked “massive confusion” over the government’s coronavirus rules. 

The pub chain boss said he thought the UK should adopt the Swedish model for pandemics to allow his pubs to open again properly. 

Mr Martin revealed Wetherspoon sales fell from £1.82bn to £1.26bn in the year to 26 July, while the chain reported a loss before tax of £105.4m. 

The loss is the first time Wetherspoon has sunk into the red since 1984 – although the company remains confident it can continue to trade.

Its chairman criticised changing Covid-19 rules on Friday, on the same day the company’s delayed results were published.

“Under emergency powers the government is making a lot of changes,” Mr Martin told the BBC’s Today programme, “which we think in the industry are arbitrary, don’t work, like the curfew, and that’s making life almost impossible.”

The Wetherspoon’s boss also claimed there was “massive confusion” in the UK  over regulations, and said he supported Sweden’s model – which has chosen to keep large parts of society open while social distancing is promoted – where Mr Martin claimed “everyone knows what they’ve got to do”. 

Quoting business scion Warren Buffett from 1989, Mr Martin said governments across the world have based their lockdown decisions on "deeply flawed analysis" and attacked politicians and the media who reported that the company was considering withholding wages at the start of lockdown – a decision that was eventually not taken.

He added that like-for-like sales in the 11 weeks since 26 July have been 15 per cent below those of last year, with strong sales in the first few weeks, followed by a marked slowdown since the introduction of a curfew and other restrictions.

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