Wetherspoon reveals £52million loss after months of lockdown closures

Wetherspoon reveals £52million loss after being hit by months of Covid lockdown closures – as pub chain unveils socially-distanced beer gardens which will open on April 12

  • Wetherspoon revenue falls 54% to £431m in half year to end of January even as pubs reopened for part of time
  • Government says pubs with outdoor serving areas – including 394 Wetherspoon sites – will reopen on April 12
  • This is expected to progress to table-only service indoors on May 17 before full planned reopening on June 21
  • Chain releases photographs of ten socially-distanced beer gardens across England in advance of reopening

JD Wetherspoon revealed today it had registered a heavy drop in sales and a £52.8million pre-tax loss in its last six-month period as pub chains were devastated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Revenue at the Watford-based company dropped by nearly 54 per cent to £431million in the half year to the end of January, even as pubs were allowed to reopen, albeit under restrictions, for part of that time.

Government plans means pubs with outdoor serving areas – including 394 Wetherspoon sites – will be allowed to reopen on April 12. This will progress to table-only service indoors on May 17, and a full reopening on June 21.

The chain has released photographs of ten of its socially-distanced beer gardens across England in advance of them opening next month, including pubs in London, Sheffield, Leeds, Windsor and King’s Lynn. 

The pubs will be open from 9am to 9pm from Sunday to Thursday, and 9am to 10pm on Friday and Saturday, although some have restrictions on closing times and in those cases will close earlier.

The John Russell Fox in Andover, Hampshire, will be among the 394 Wetherspoon pubs to reopen beer gardens on April 12

The Royal Enfield in Redditch, Worcestershire, is also among the pubs that has a beer garden and can therefore reopen

The Angel Vaults Inn pub in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, has an outdoor seating area and can therefore reopen on April 12

The Three Hulats in Chapel Allerton, Leeds, has an outdoor seating area that will reopen for customers next month

The Goldengrove pub in Stratford, East London, has an outdoor seating area that will be back in use from April 12

The locations are set to offer a slightly reduced menu compared to normal, to include breakfast, burgers, pizza, deli deals and British classics such as fish and chips. Food will be available from 9am to 8pm seven days a week.

Customers will be able to order and pay through the Wetherspoon app, but staff will also be able to take orders and payment at the table from those who do not have the app. The pubs will not be operating a booking system.

Vaccine passports could soon be piloted in pubs

Vaccine passports could soon be piloted in English pubs to check whether they can help speed up the lifting of social restrictions.

A tech company is understood to be in talks with the government to carry out trials in pubs in Chester as soon as next month. Customers would have to show an app to prove they had had a vaccine or a negative Covid test before being allowed to have a drink indoors.

The firm, Match Fit Pass, said it has discussed the idea with officials in government and is waiting for the green light to be able to carry out the pilot from April 12.

Permission is needed because, according to Boris Johnson’s roadmap, only outdoor opening for pubs is allowed on that date. Football clubs and music venues are also said to be interested in taking part in the trials, the company said.

Michael Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, is heading up an official review into how vaccine passports could help venues such as pubs to scrap social distancing requirements more quickly.

His review will also consider potential ethical problems such as whether it is right to bar people from pubs if they have decided against having the vaccine.

Michael Dodd, the chief executive of Match Fit Pass, said: ‘We’ve already got six venues in Chester lined up and eager to beta test the Match Fit Pass solution. We’re just waiting on the green light from local authorities and the government and then we can start to roll this out nationally and internationally and get our global economy moving again.’

To use the vaccine passport, customers will have to upload a photograph of their face and their passport or driving licence. This information will be encrypted within a biometrically secure QR code.

Information on Covid-19 testing and vaccination can then be shared on the app. The venue will scan the code and take a photo of the customer’s face. If this matches the information in the QR code – and it shows the person has had a jab or a negative test – they will be permitted entry to the venue. 

Visitors will be able to enter the pub to gain access to the outside area and also to use the toilet. Test and trace systems will be in operation and hand sanitisers will be available. 

It comes as the firm swung to a £52.8million pre-tax loss, from a £51.6million profit a year earlier. Wetherspoon pubs, along with their rivals, were allowed to reopen again after months of lockdown last summer. 

It meant that from July 2020, around 50million customer visits were clocked in across the pub giant’s pubs. The firm said it had notched up charges of £7.5million as it spent to ensure its pubs were safer, among other things.

Screens were set up between tables to improve social distancing during the months that the pubs were open.

Yet a second national lockdown in November, and a reopening under tiered systems in December, only for doors to once again be slammed shut at the start of January, caused another painful period for the hospitality sector.

To help get through the crisis, Wetherspoon has tapped into the Government’s furlough scheme, claiming more than £97million in the half year.

It also took a loan from the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme in August last year, and has agreed a second CBILS loan of nearly £52million this month, Wetherspoon said.

Shares in the business dropped 1.6 per cent this morning as markets opened, and despite recovering since lows a year ago, they are still around 13 per cent lower than before the Covid-19 sell-off that hit markets in February 2020.

Its chairman Tim Martin, who has criticised the Government’s handling of the pandemic, said the future of the industry depended on a ‘consistent set of sensible policies’ and the ending of lockdowns and tier systems.

The company, which posted its first annual loss since 1984 in fiscal year 2020, has had to cut hundreds of jobs and ask investors for money twice, to get through the pandemic.

Mr Martin said the curbs, including curfews, ‘substantial meals’ with drinks, and masks for bathroom visits, had ‘no real basis in common sense or science’, reiterating his stance that the Government be more considerate towards the industry.

On St Patrick’s Day alone, pubs lost out on 14 million sales of pints, while £8.2billion in trade value was wiped out from the sector just in beer sales since the first round of lockdowns last year, the British Beer and Pub Association estimated this week.

Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: ‘The pandemic has taken a sledgehammer to Wetherspoon’s business model, which is focused on pulling in high volumes of punters while keeping prices low. 

The Rawson Spring in Hillsborough, Sheffield, will reopen its outdoor seating area for customers from April 12

The Royal Victoria Pavilion in Ramsgate, Kent, which is Britain’s biggest pub, has a large outdoor area overlooking the beach

The King and Castle in Windsor, Berkshire, which overlooks Windsor Castle, will also open its outdoor area next month

The Globe Hotel in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, has a large outdoor space which will reopen for customers on April 12

The Admiral Collingwood in the North Devon seaside resort of Ilfracombe will also reopen its beer garden next month

‘The stop start nature of the business during the crisis has seen a yo-yo effect to some extent, but overall the picture was of a sharp decline.

‘Like for like sales plunged by 53.9 per cent as lockdowns and strict social distancing measures turned packed venues into empty caverns. Given the pre-tax loss of £61.4million, it comes as no surprise the interim dividend has been scrapped.’

She added: ‘Indoor drinking and eating won’t be able to resume until May 17 at the earliest, and the company is even questioning the certainty of that timeline. It is speculating that despite the successful roll out of vaccines, there could be more knee jerk reactions in government policy to the latest news updates.

‘The extension of the VAT cut to 5 per cent will provide some short term relief and the company says if it’s made permanent, it would be able to keep lower prices indefinitely which should help lure customers back through the doors when they finally do open.’  

This graph shows how the number of Wetherspoon pubs open in Britain since last July has varied between zero and 860

The past year has been devastating for the pub industry, with Wetherspoon suffering big falls in the likes of sales and turnover

Wetherspoon’s business model has changed over the past 20 years, now relying significantly more on food than it used to

Wetherpoon’s chairman Tim Martin (above) said the future of the industry depended on a ‘consistent set of sensible policies’

Vaccine passports could soon be piloted in English pubs to check whether they can help speed up the lifting of social restrictions.

A tech company is understood to be in talks with the government to carry out trials in pubs in Chester as soon as next month.

Customers would have to show an app to prove they had had a vaccine or a negative Covid test before being allowed to have a drink indoors.

The firm, Match Fit Pass, said it has discussed the idea with officials in government and is waiting for the green light to be able to carry out the pilot from April 12. 

Which Wetherspoon pubs are reopening next month? 

The Wetherspoon pubs below will be opening their outdoor areas on April 12, 2021:

Bedfordshire

The Pilgrim’s Progress, Bedford

The Crown Hotel, Biggleswade

The Gary Cooper, Dunstable 

The Swan Hotel, Leighton Buzzard

The White House, Luton

Berkshire

The Old Manor, Bracknell

The Bear, Maidenhead

The Hatchet Inn, Newbury

The Back of Beyond, Reading

The King and Castle, Windsor

Bristol

St Georges Hall, Bristol

The Jolly Sailor, Bristol

The Kingswood Colliers, Bristol

The Knights Templar, Bristol

The Staple Hill Oak, Bristol

V-Shed, Bristol

Buckinghamshire

The White Hart, Aylesbury

Captain Ridley’s Shooting Party, Milton Keynes

The Moon Under Water, Milton Keynes

Cambridgeshire

The Regal, Cambridge

The Hippodrome, March

Sandford House, Huntingdon

The College Arms, Peterborough

The Draper’s Arms, Peterborough

The George Hotel, Peterborough

Cheshire

The Bull and Stirrup Hotel, Chester

The Counting House, Congleton

The Wheatsheaf, Ellesmere Port

The Society Rooms, Macclesfield

The Penny Black, Northwich

The Kingfisher, Poynton

The Society Rooms, Stalybridge

The Calverts Court, Stockport

The Wilfred Wood, Stockport

The Looking Glass, Warrington

The Queens Arms, Winsford

Cornwall

The Coinage Hall, Helston

The King Doniert, Liskeard

The Green Parrot, Perranporth

The Rann Wartha, St Austell

County Durham

The Stanley Jefferson, Bishop Auckland

The Wicket Gate, Chester-le-Street

County Durham continued

The Company Row, Consett

The Bishops’ Mill, Durham

The Ward Jackson, Hartlepool

The Grand Electric Hall, Spennymoor

Cumbria

The Furness Railway, Barrow-in-Furness

The William Rufus, Carlisle

Woodrow Wilson, Carlisle

The Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, Keswick

The Dog Beck, Penrith

The Miles Thompson, Kendal

Derbyshire

Waggon and Horses, Alfreton

The Wye Bridge House, Buxton

The Pillar of Rock, Chesterfield

The Portland Hotel, Chesterfield

The Standing Order, Derby

Devon

The Panniers, Barnstaple

George’s Meeting House, Exeter

The Chevalier Inn, Exeter

The Imperial, Exeter

The Sawyer’s Arms, Exeter

The Powder Monkey, Exmouth

The Star Inn, Honiton

The Admiral Collingwood, Ilfracombe

The White Hart Hotel, Okehampton

The Talk of the Town, Paignton

The Britannia Inn, Plymouth

The Union Rooms, Plymouth

The Stannary Court, Plympton

The Jolie Brise, Teignmouth

The White Ball Inn, Tiverton

Dorset

The Moon in the Square, Bournemouth

The Royal Oak, Dorchester

The Blackwater Stream, Poole

The Lord Wimborne, Poole

The Quay, Poole

East Riding of Yorkshire

The Cross Keys, Beverley

The Prior John, Bridlington

City and County, Goole

The Three John Scotts, Kingston Upon Hull

The Admiral of the Humber, Kingston Upon Hull

East Sussex

The West Quay, Brighton

The Picture Playhouse, Bexhill-on-Sea

The Crowborough Cross, Crowborough

The George Hotel, Hailsham

Cornfield Garage, Eastbourne

Essex

The Blue Boar, Billericay

The William Aylmer, Harlow

The Bottle Kiln, Harwich

The Elms, Leigh-on-Sea

The Temeraire, Saffron Walden

Parsons’ Barn, Shoeburyness

The Battesford Court, Witham

Gloucestershire

The Moon Under Water, Cheltenham

The Lord High Constable of England, Gloucester

The Regal, Gloucester

The Royal Hop Pole, Tewkesbury

Greater Manchester

The Gateway, East Didsbury

The Bull’s Head Hotel, Manchester

The Robert Shaw, Westhoughton

The Brocket Arms, Wigan

Hampshire

The John Russell Fox, Andover

The Queen Hotel, Aldershot

The Ivy House, Alton

The Angel, Basingstoke

The Wagon Works, Eastleigh

The Crown Inn, Fareham

The Lord Arthur Lee, Fareham

The Prince Arthur, Fleet

The Star, Gosport

The Parchment Makers, Havant

The Six Bells, Lymington

The Red Lion, Petersfield

The Sir Alec Rose, Portsmouth

The Admiral Sir Lucius Curtis, Southampton

The Giddy Bridge, Southampton

The Red Lion, Southampton

The Standing Order, Southampton

The Lord Palmerston, Southsea

The Denmead Queen, Waterlooville

Herefordshire

The Kings Fee, Hereford

The Duke’s Head, Leominster

Hertfordshire

The Crown, Berkhamsted

The Port Jackson, Bishop’s Stortford

Harpsfield Hall, Hatfield

The Six Templars, Hertford

The Angel Vaults Inn, Hitchin

The Star, Hoddesdon

The Admiral Byng, Potters Bar

The Manor House, Royston

Waterend Barn, St Albans

The Standing Order, Stevenage

The Moon and Cross, Waltham Cross

The Moon Under Water, Watford

Isle of Wight

The Man in the Moon, Newport

Kent

The County Hotel, Ashford

The Thomas Waghorn, Chatham

The Flying Boat, Dartford

The Sir Norman Wisdom, Deal

The Leading Light, Faversham

The Saxon Shore, Herne Bay

The Society Rooms, Maidstone

Royal Victoria Pavilion, Ramsgate

The Golden Lion, Rochester

The Belle and Lion, Sheerness

The Golden Hope, Sittingbourne

The Humphrey Bean, Tonbridge

The Peter Cushing, Whitstable

Lancashire

The Sir Thomas Gerard, Ashton-in-Makerfield

The Ash Tree, Ashton-under-Lyne

The Commercial Hotel, Accrington

The Layton Rakes, Blackpool

The Velvet Coaster, Blackpool

The Boot Inn, Burnley

The Jolly Tars, Cleveleys

The Wallace Hartley, Colne

The Old Chapel, Darwen

The Leyland Lion, Leyland

The Railway Hotel, Lytham St Annes

The Trawl Boat Inn, Lytham St Annes

The Court Leet, Ormskirk

The Poulton Elk, Poulton-le-Fylde

The Twelve Tellers, Preston

The Regal Moon, Rochdale

Leicestershire

The Shoulder of Mutton, Ashby-de-la-Zouch

The Moon & Bell, Loughborough

The Sugar Loaf, Market Harborough

The Kettleby Cross, Melton Mowbray

The White House, Leicester

The High Cross, Leicester

Lincolnshire

The Coliseum Picture Theatre, Cleethorpes

The Sweyn Forkbeard, Gainsborough

The Tollemache Inn, Grantham

The Yarborough Hotel, Grimsby

Ritz, Lincoln

The Joseph Morton, Louth

The Stamford Post, Stamford

London

The Red Lion & Pineapple, Acton

The Railway Bell, Barnet

The Asparagus, Battersea

The Furze Wren, Bexleyheath

The Brockley Barge, Brockley

The Richmal Crompton, Bromley

The Greyhound, Bromley

The Fox on the Hill, Camberwell

The Ice Wharf, Camden

The Eva Hart, Chadwell Heath

The Ledger Building, Docklands

The Moon Under Water, Enfield

The New Fairlop Oak, Fairlop

The Hudson Bay, Forest Gate

The Capitol, Forest Hill

The William Morris, Hammersmith

The Toll Gate, Harringay

The Moon and Sixpence, Hatch End

The Botwell Inn, Hayes

The Great Spoon of Ilford, Ilford

The Half Moon, Mile End

The Mossy Well, Muswell Hill

The Watchman, New Malden

The Moon Under Water, Norbury

The Greenwood Hotel, Northolt

The Harvest Moon, Orpington

The Moon & Stars, Penge

The Sovereign of the Seas, Petts Wood

The Rocket, Putney

The Village Inn, Rayners Lane

The Moon and Stars, Romford

The Surrey Docks, Rotherhithe

J.J. Moon’s, Ruislip Manor

The Sir Julian Huxley, Selsdon

The Barrel Vault, St Pancras

Goldengrove, Stratford

The Moon on the Hill, Sutton

The George, Wanstead

The New Cross Turnpike, Welling

J.J. Moon’s, Wembley

Spouter’s Corner, Wood Green

Manchester

The Sedge Lynn, Chorlton-cum-Hardy

The Eccles Cross, Eccles

Castle in the Air, Manchester

The Bishop Blaize, Stretford

The Tim Bobbin, Urmston

Merseyside

The Brass Balance, Birkenhead

The Barker’s Brewery, Liverpool

The Captain Alexander, Liverpool

The Childwall Fiveways Hotel, Liverpool

The Frank Hornby, Liverpool

The Lifeboat, Liverpool

The Navigator, Liverpool

The Raven, Liverpool

The Master Mariner, New Brighton

The Nine Arches, Newton-le-Willows

The Ferry Boat, Runcorn

The Sir Henry Segrave, Southport

The Willow Grove, Southport

The Dee Hotel, West Kirby

The Premier, Widnes

Norfolk

The Romany Rye, Dereham

The Whalebone, Downham Market

The Limes, Fakenham

The Troll Cart, Great Yarmouth

The William Adams, Great Yarmouth

Globe Hotel, King’s Lynn

The Bell Hotel, Norwich

The Glass House, Norwich

The Queen of Iceni, Norwich

The Whiffler, Norwich

North Lincolnshire

The White Horse, Brigg

The Blue Bell Inn, Scunthorpe

North Yorkshire

The Ironstone Miner, Guisborough

The Winter Gardens, Harrogate

The Swatters Carr, Middlesbrough

The Plimsoll Line, Redcar

The Ralph Fitz Randal, Richmond

The Giant Bellflower, Selby

The Devonshire Inn, Skipton

The Angel Hotel, Whitby 

The Postern Gate, York

Northamptonshire

The Samuel Lloyd, Corby

The Saxon Crown, Corby

The Saracens Head Inn, Daventry

The Earl of Dalkeith, Kettering

The Cordwainer, Northampton 

The Railway Inn, Rushden

The Red Well, Wellingborough

Northumberland

The Rohan Kanhai, Ashington

The Red Lion, Bedlington

Nottinghamshire

The Last Post, Beeston

The Admiral Sir John Borlase Warren, Nottingham

The Free Man, Nottingham

The Gooseberry Bush, Nottingham

The William Peverel, Nottingham

The Woodthorpe Top, Nottingham

The Dominie Cross, Retford

Oxfordshire

The Penny Black, Bicester

The Swan & Castle, Oxford

The Catherine Wheel, Henley-on-Thames

Rutland

The Captain Noel Newton, Oakham

Shropshire

The Hippodrome, Market Drayton

The Wilfred Owen, Oswestry

The Shrewsbury Hotel, Shrewsbury

The Thomas Botfield, Telford Shopping Centre

Somerset

The Carnival Inn, Bridgwater

The Posset Cup, Bristol

The Reeds Arms, Burnham-on-Sea

The Cerdic, Chard

Palladium Electric, Midsomer Norton

The Duke of Wellington, Minehead

The Glassmaker, Nailsea

The Lantokay, Street

The Perkin Warbeck, Taunton

The Quarter Jack, Wells

Cabot Court Hotel, Weston-super-Mare

South Gloucestershire

Thorn’s Farm, Yate

South Yorkshire

The Joseph Bramah, Barnsley

The Red Lion, Doncaster

The Bluecoat, Rotherham

The Queens Hotel, Rotherham

Sheffield Water Works Company, Sheffield

The Benjamin Huntsman, Sheffield

The Francis Newton, Sheffield

The Rawson Spring, Sheffield, 

The Sheaf Island, Sheffield

The Steel Foundry, Sheffield

The Wagon & Horses, Sheffield

The Church House, Wath-upon-Dearne

The Horseshoe, Wombwell

Staffordshire

The Bradley Green, Biddulph

The Lord Burton, Burton upon Trent

The Wheatsheaf, Cheadle

The Hedgeford Lodge, Hednesford

The Green Dragon, Leek

The Arnold Machin, Newcastle-under-Lyme

The Plaza, Rugeley

The Butler’s Bell, Stafford

The Picture House, Stafford

The Bole Bridge, Tamworth

Stockton-on-Tees

The Half Moon Inn, Billingham

Suffolk

The Kings Head Hotel, Beccles

The Cricketers, Ipswich

The Joseph Conrad, Lowestoft

The Golden Lion, Newmarket

The Willow Tree, Stowmarket

Grover & Allen, Sudbury

Surrey

The Assembly Rooms, Epsom

The Jack Fairman, Horley

The Oxted Inn, Oxted

The George, Staines-upon-Thames

Tyne and Wear

The Five Swans, Newcastle upon Tyne

The Mile Castle, Newcastle upon Tyne

The Quayside, Newcastle upon Tyne

The Wouldhave, South Shields

The Cooper Rose, Sunderland

The Ritz, Wallsend

The Sir William de Wessyngton, Washington

The Harry Clasper, Whickham

The Fire Station, Whitley Bay

Warwickshire

The Golden Bee, Stratford-upon-Avon

The Thomas Lloyd, Warwick

West Midlands

The Avion, Aldridge

The Black Horse, Birmingham

The Dragon Inn, Birmingham

The Figure of Eight, Birmingham

The Bloxwich Showman, Bloxwich

Abraham Darby, Brierley Hill

The Waterfront Inn, Brierley Hill

The Flying Standard, Coventry

The City Arms, Coventry

The Spon Gate, Coventry

The Cross Inn, Kingswinford

The Mare Pool, Mere Green

The Court of Requests, Oldbury

The Britannia, Rowley Regis

The Chequers Inn, Stourbridge

The Pump House, Solihull

The White Swan, Solihull

The Bishop Vesey, Sutton Coldfield

The Bottle of Sack, Sutton Coldfield

St. Matthew’s Hall, Walsall

The Bellwether, Wednesbury

The Royal Tiger, Wednesfield

West Sussex

The Hatter’s Inn, Bognor Regis

The Lynd Cross, Horsham

West Yorkshire

The Union Rooms, Batley

The Turls Green, Bradford

The Richard Oastler, Brighouse

The Glass Blower, Castleford

The Winter Seam, Castleford

The Obediah Brooke, Cleckheaton

The Livery Rooms, Keighley

The Briggate, Leeds

The Crossed Shuttle, Leeds

The Cuthbert Brodrick, Leeds

The Old Unicorn, Leeds

The Picture House, Leeds

The Three Hulats, Leeds

The Bowling Green, Otley

The Blue Bell, Pontefract

The Commercial Inn, Sowerby Bridge

The White Hart, Todmorden

The Six Chimneys, Wakefield

Wiltshire

The Bell, Amesbury

The Bridge House, Chippenham

The Bear, Melksham

The King’s Head Inn, Salisbury

The Dockle Farmhouse, Swindon

The Sir Daniel Arms, Swindon

The Bath Arms, Warminster

Worcestershire

George Hotel, Bewdley

Golden Cross Hotel, Bromsgrove

The Old Swanne Inne, Evesham

The Foley Arms Hotel, Great Malvern

The Royal Enfield, Redditch

The Crown, Worcester

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