Great Britain

Wetherspoons boss Tim Martin warns pubs and restaurants face wipeout with up to a MILLION job losses

WETHERSPOONS boss Tim Martin has warned pubs and restaurants face being wiped out – with up to a million jobs on the line.

The hospitality industry could be left in ruins as tighter local measures are introduced to fight the coronavirus and a second national lockdown lasting two weeks could be on the cards.

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Tim Martin, the boss of JD Wetherspoon, which employs 43,000 people in its pubs and hotels, said many smaller venues had already gone to the wall after the first lockdown.

He said further restrictions would be “even more devastating," The Times reports.

Kate Nicholls, the chief executive of lobby group UK Hospitality, said some 900,000 workers in the industry are still on furlough and their jobs are currently at risk as Prime Minister Boris Johnson brings in restrictions in parts of the UK to battle a second wave of Covid-19.

Pub chains want Chancellor Rishi Sunak to continue the furlough scheme which is due to run out at the end of October as well as slash beer duty and extend the cut in VAT.

Mr Johnson is currently looking at a “circuit break” closure which would effectively mean the country goes into a national lockdown for two weeks, as the number of coronavirus cases has rocketed in recent days.

The number of new cases topped 4,000 on Friday.

'DEVASTATING'

Sadiq Khan, London’s mayor, said the extra measures in the capital looked “increasingly likely”.

Nick Mackenzie, chief executive of Greene King, which oversees 2,700 pubs, restaurants and hotels, said the government needed to extend the furlough scheme and provide extra support to protect jobs.

He said: “The sector is fighting for survival - we are already seeing pubs in areas where there are additional restrictions are performing less well, especially those in Scotland.

“New measures such as a 10pm curfew will cause further damage and hit city-centre pubs most, especially in London.”

While the recent Eat Out to Help Out scheme gave a boost to the industry Nicholls said venues where local curfews had been imposed had suffered a 40-50 per cent reduction in trade.

Nicholls said: “There are 900,000 people currently still receiving full furlough: that is the quantum of jobs at risk, given that furlough runs out in October and you would need to start redundancy discussions in the next couple of weeks.

'FIGHTING FOR SURVIVAL'

“We need to have a grown-up debate with government about the measures needed.

“There is no certainty that this would be the only lockdown. We need a plan to get us through the next six months.”

She also called for an extension to the business rates holiday and the cut to VAT, from 20 per cent to 5 per cent, which ends on January 12.

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, also called for a cut to beer duty, which works out at around 54p on the average pint.

The Treasury said: “We will continue to act in creative and effective ways to support jobs as we recover from the crisis.”

The economy plummeted into recession in March and April due to the coronavirus pandemic and the introduction of a lockdown, which saw the economy shrink by 20.4 per cent.

Figures for July though saw GDP rise by 6.6 per cent.

Sanjay Raja, UK economist at Deutsche Bank, said any further restrictions could knock the recovery in GDP off course.

“The tightening in restrictions is economically important. Stricter social restrictions will weigh on the UK’s recovery. This is one reason we expect the recent GDP surge to be short-lived,” he said.

Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin says 'over the top' to shut pubs and there's been 'hardly any transmission in pubs' during coronavirus crisis

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