Published: 18:13, 29 April 2020
| Updated: 19:21, 29 April 2020
Wetherpoon is working towards reopening its 900 pubs "in or around June".
The nation's biggest pub chain, which runs more than 20 boozers in Kent including the UK's largest in The Royal Pavilion at Ramsgate, has said it is thrashing out a plan to welcome back punters in time for the summer.
Spokesman Eddie Gershon said: “Wetherspoon has no hotline to the government as to when pubs might be permitted to reopen and we doubt if the government itself has yet made a decision on this.
“Like all companies we are trying to make a plan for the future and are guessing that they may be allowed to reopen in late June, around three months after they closed.
“However, that is just an estimate and may prove to be entirely incorrect.
“Wetherspoon, like all pub companies, closed its doors when ordered to do so by the government – and will only reopen when it is permitted to do so.”
The business said: “The company is likely to make some changes to its operating model, assuming increased social distancing, and anticipates a gradual recovery in customer numbers.
“Wetherspoon pubs are substantially larger than average, and most have outside facilities. The company believes these factors are likely to assist if social distancing measures apply.”
Owner Tim Martin furloughed 40,000 staff (99% of employees) when the government announced all pubs would have to close at the end of March.
He caused controversy by then telling them to get jobs at Tesco and refusing to pay wages until he received government money.
Today the company said it is seeking to raise £141 million, with part of that generated by the sale of 15.7 million shares at 900 pence each.
Board salaries have already been cut by between 38% to 50%.
However the news will cause confusion as earlier this month cabinet minister Michael Gove refused to rule out pubs not being able to open until December.
Mr Martin also revealed the government’s business rates holiday has saved his firm around £60 million and he is looking at applying for a Bank of England loan for large companies of up to £50m but the company may not be eligible.
New pub openings have been put on hold and are not expected to restart until 2022, with around five a year from then.
Mr Martin said he will take a 50% voluntary pay cut, along with chief executive John Hutson.
He said: “The Covid‐19 outbreak is having a severe impact on the UK pub sector. In these challenging times I would like to thank everyone at the company, its suppliers, landlords, banks and the Government for their support and commitment.
“We’ve had to take significant action to reduce costs, decisions which have not been taken lightly. We look forward to re‐opening our pubs and hotels and welcoming back our teams in the near future.”
More by this authorEd McConnell