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Wetherspoons makes first loss since 1984

The boss of pub chain JD Wetherspoon has said he is unable to “rule out” future job cuts after the company made its first loss since 1984.

Chairman Tim Martin said it was “difficult” to say how long the chain could last without additional fundraising, adding that it “kind of depends on the Government”.

Mr Martin, who is also the pub group’s founder, made his comments after Wetherspoons reported a loss of £105.4m for the year ending July 26 2020. Sales took a £556m hit from the Covid-19 crisis, from £1.82bn to £1.26bn.

The company 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.

Commenting on how the long the business could continue under coronavirus restrictions, Mr Martin said: “We can last for a decent amount of time, possibly a year or two, but if everything goes into Tier 3 (restrictions), it will shorten the times.

“And it will be (able to last) forever if we go back to what (measures) was applied on July 4.”

Asked if he would be forced to “reduce headcount”, Mr Martin said: “You can’t rule anything out at the moment.”

Coronavirus also created £29m of extra costs for the businesses. These included £5.9m relating to food and drinks that had to be thrown away, £6.2m for PPE, and £17.1m on staffing costs.

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

Mr Martin went on to attack politicians and the media who reported that the company was considering withholding wages at the start of lockdown in March. The company eventually decided to not to withhold pay.

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”.

But there have been no cases reported to the chain of a transfer of the virus between customers or staff in public areas, it added.

Published in Insider -