Wealth of Wetherspoon’s Brexiteer boss falls by £230m as pub chain makes plan for reopening
PUBLISHED: 13:03 22 May 2020 | UPDATED: 13:34 22 May 2020
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The Brexiteer boss of Wetherspoon’s pub chain has seen his wealth fall by around £230 million, as the business made preparations to reopen.
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An exact date for reopening remains unclear, although government guidance for pubs is to plan for welcoming back customers in July.
It is understood there are ongoing discussions between ministers and the industry over whether beer gardens could be opened sooner.
The company has announced it will spend an initial £11 million making its 875 pubs Covid-19 secure ahead of reopening.
Each pub will hire two full-time workers to regularly clean surfaces and touch points throughout, with more employed in larger pubs.
Laying out the future plans for bringing customers back through its doors, bosses added all staff will be provided with gloves, masks and protective eyewear for those who want to wear it.
In a detailed update, Wetherspoon’s added: “There will be an average 10 hand sanitiser dispensers around the pub, including at the entrance for customers and staff to use.”
On opening again, bosses said they have been speaking extensively to staff, suppliers, contractors and trade body UK Hospitality for guidance, including 2,500 suggestions from workers.
It explained: “Dedicated staff will monitor the pub at all times in order to maintain social distancing standards and there will be a member of staff on the door at peak times.”
Staff will need to complete and sign a daily health assessment questionnaire to confirm that they are fit to work and have a digital thermometer temperature check.
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Founder and chairman Tim Martin faced heavy criticism as lockdown was being introduced.
At the start of the lockdown he branded the measures to close pubs “over the top”, claiming “there’s hardly been any transmission of the virus within pubs”.
He first said he would withhold salaries from staff, before reversing the decision, called for a relaxed lockdown similar to the Netherlands so his pubs could keep trading and warned suppliers may not be paid either.
Since then, Wetherspoon’s has revealed the business rates holiday announced by the government saved the firm £60 million and shareholders were tapped up for £141 million as the lockdown took hold.
It is reported the founder has lost £230 million in his fortune after shares in the firm, of which he owns 32%, have fallen by more than 40% since the start of the year.
However the company will be hoping to reap back the losses with an inevitable post-lockdown bounce from the reopening of pubs.
The company said when the establishments reopen customers would be closely watched to ensure social distancing.
Wetherspoon chief executive John Hutson said: “At present the government have not confirmed any reopening date for pubs.
“However, it is important that we are prepared for any announcement.
“We have spent a number of weeks consulting with staff who work in our pubs, as well as area managers in order to draw up our plans.”
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