The Brexiteer boss of pub chain JD Wetherspoon has been accused of ‘going rogue’ after the firm appeared to hint at a re-opening in June.
As the company announced its half-yearly results a statement read: ‘The company’s immediate priority is to manage the business during the current ‘lockdown’ period. It is also starting to plan for a reopening of pubs and hotels in or around June.’
Tim Martin remained tight-lipped about when or how the pubs would re-open, but told the BBC he was ‘looking forward to it’.
He said: ‘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 reopening our pubs and hotels and welcoming back our teams in the near future.’
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But the claims were met with criticism by a government minister who urged Martin to ‘work with government’ instead of creating ‘mixed messaging’.
Robert Buckland, the government’s justice secretary, told BBC Breakfast: ‘My advice to all businesses is please work together with government.
‘We need to have a coordinated approach to this. Mixed messages help nobody.
‘One of the great successes of these last few terrible weeks has been the clarity of the messaging.’
He continued: ‘The public have really understood it, embraced it and got on with the job collectively.
‘I think working together is the way we’re going to deal with this crisis.
‘So my plea is for us to be unified and work with each other.
‘We need to listen to each other and follow the guidance and the rules that we’ve set out clearly.’
But Martin slammed claims that the business had proposed re-opening before the lockdown is eased by government.
‘It’s total and complete cobblers,’ the boss said. ‘We have no insight whatsoever as to when pubs might reopen and no information from, or hotline to, the government. We’ve made an assumption, just for planning purposes, that pubs MIGHT be allowed to open in late June – but we don’t know any more than anyone else.’
Last month the Brexiteer was criticised for claiming pubs should remain open because he said there had been ‘hardly any transmission of coronavirus in pubs’.