Wetherspoons Pub in Clacton
Image Source: Martin Pettitt
A Wetherspoon pub in Clacton.
Chloe Shakesby

Wetherspoon boss slams UK's "big brother approach" as weekend sales drop by 20 per cent

National pub chain Wetherspoons has today reported that the weekend’s sales were more than 20 per cent below the previous year.

Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin said that sales were 22.5 per cent below the same weekend in 2019, despite fears that more gatherings would take place ahead of stricter social distancing rules coming into play.

The company also reported that 50 of its 861 pubs had seen at least one positive case of coronavirus among its employees.

Since reopening, the chain has invested £15m in safeguarding its venues, including the installation of hand sanitising stations and screens at till areas.

Tim Martin commented: “The situation with regard to pubs has been widely misunderstood.

“For example, Professor Hugh Pennington, of Aberdeen University, has said, without scientific evidence, that pubs are “dangerous places to be”.

“This sort of negative view about pubs may have been fuelled by inaccurate press headlines.

“The Daily Mail, for example, said “Britons have promised to run riot” during the weekend and referred to the situation as being like “the last days of Rome”.

“In fact, trade was very quiet over the weekend, as the public weighed up the evidence about the alleged dangers of going out - Wetherspoon sales were 22.5 per cent below the equivalent Saturday last year.

“It is clearly not the case that pubs are “dangerous places to be”.

“There have been more positive cases at one farm in Hereford than at all Wetherspoon pubs - and over four times as many at one sandwich-making facility in Northampton.

“As Swedish epidemiologist Johan Giesecke has said, strong scientific evidence shows that handwashing and social distancing, as practised by most pubs, work.

“In this connection, Wetherspoon has invested around £15 million on comprehensive social distancing and hygiene measures. These include reducing capacity, spacing out tables, the installation of screens between tables and around tills, and an average of ten hand sanitisers per pub.

“Bad decisions are built on false presumptions, like those of Professor Pennington and the Daily Mail.

“If pubs are closed, or restricted so much that they become unprofitable, a great deal of the strenuous effort of the hospitality industry’s 3.2 million employees, currently engaged on upholding hygiene and social distancing standards, will be lost - leaving the public to socialise at home or elsewhere, in unsupervised circumstances.

“A major difference between the UK’s and Sweden’s approach, as reflected in comments from the Daily Mail and the approach of the government, is a lack of trust in the public.

“The UK has adopted a colossally expensive “big brother” approach, based on exhortation, lockdowns, bewilderingly frequent changes of direction and other heavy-handed initiatives.

“In Sweden, public policy is based on trusting the people and this will eventually lead to far superior results.

“Although it is clearly possible for Covid-19 infections to take place in pubs and shops, the evidence indicates that the risk is low, provided social distancing and hygiene rules are followed, and common sense is used, in line with the views of Professor Giesecke and Councillor Ward.”

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