J D Wetherspoon has today warned of the threat posed to British pubs and the wider economy from coronavirus restrictions, after reporting its first annual loss since 1984.
Pubs, restaurants and other leisure businesses were ordered to shut early across England last month.
The UK government this week introduced a three-tier system that requires pubs and bars in areas of “very high” alert to close.
Wetherspoon, which along with other operators had been recovering before the new system came into effect, said that like-for-like sales in the first 11 weeks of the new financial year were down 15%, compared to a 30% fall for its fiscal 2020.
The pub operator, run by chairman Tim Martin who is an outspoken opponent of coronavirus restrictions, reported a £34m pretax loss for the year to July 26, compared to a profit of £102m a year earlier.
“The current environment of lockdowns, curfews and constantly changing regulations and announcements threatens not only pub companies, but the entire economy,” Martin said.
Shares in Wetherspoon were down 9.4% this morning after it said in a statement it would make a further 108 job cuts.
In August it said it would cut up to 130 jobs at its head office and last month added that 400 to 450 airport employees could lose their jobs as it deals with depressed demand.
This follows UK rival Marston’s announcement this week of up to 2,150 job losses, and warnings from pub bosses across northern England that the latest round of restrictions will wipe out their businesses.
Wetherspoon, known for its cheap pints and innovations such as ordering drinks and food via app, also renewed its appeal to the government to drop VAT rates for pub sales to the same level as for supermarket alcohol.