Wetherspoon looks to keep on all 37,000 furloughed staff when pub gets go-ahead to reopen

(qlmbusinessnews.com via news.sky.com– Mon, 15th Feb 2021) London, Uk – –

The firm's founder stresses the economic contribution made by the industry as he presses the government on restarting trade.

Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin has told Sky News he aims to bring back all 37,000 staff currently on furlough leave once his pub chain gets the go-ahead to reoopen.

The firm's chairman and founder expressed the hope as he called on the government to allow bars to start trading again at the same time as non-essential shops, following the coronavirus lockdown.

He had earlier warned the pub industry was “on its knees” due to the COVID-19 pandemic and highlighted the major contribution it makes to the economy through taxation.

His comments came as more than 160 hospitality chiefs, including the bosses of Burger King, Pizza Express and Fuller's urged the chancellor to extend the VAT cut by another year, amid continuing uncertainty over when struggling venues will be able to reopen.Advertisement

The government is set to unveil its road map to recovery following the latest lockdown and timescales for the easing of some restrictions in an update on 22 February.

Pressed on Sky News' Ian King Live programme over how many furloughed staff he hoped to bring back, Mr Martin said: “All of them.”

He added: “There were 40,000 when we closed down a year ago and there are over 37,000 now, so we hope that they can all come back.”

He also defended the displaying of anti-lockdown posters in the windows of some of his pubs, which were removed following criticism.

Asked if he regretted this, Mr Martin said: “No. I think there's a strong case which has been made by many, many people that the type of hard lockdown that you have had in the UK doesn't work.”

He argued there had now been three nationwide lockdowns while the UK had one of the highest coronavirus death rates in the world.

Pressing for the reopening of pubs, he pointed out that “vast swathes of the country” will have been vaccinated.Where the jobs have been lost during the COVID pandemic

In earlier comments, he said: “In the last 10 years Wetherspoon has generated £6.1bn of taxes, something we are very proud of.

“In the financial year to July 2019, before the pandemic, Wetherspoon, 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.

“The taxes paid by Wetherspoon are mirrored by thousands of companies which have been annihilated by lockdowns.

“As a result, government finances have been annihilated even more.”

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.”

Meanwhile, pub, restaurant and hotel bosses have urged Rishi Sunak to also reduce VAT for on-premise alcohol sales, leisure activities and weddings in next month's spring budget.

In a letter co-ordinated by industry body UKHospitality, industry leaders have demanded that the reduction of VAT from 20% to 5% on food and soft drinks is extended into the next financial year and also expanded to cover more areas of the sector.

They have also called for the current business rates holiday, which is currently due to expire by April, to be extended again.