Wetherspoon pubs look to March reopening after 'zero' sales in 2021

The Cricketers in Ipswich

The Cricketers in Ipswich, one of JD Wetherspoon's pubs across Suffolk and Essex - Credit: Charlotte Bond/Archant

Pub giant JD Wetherspoon, which has many venues in Suffolk and Essex, says it is burning through £4.1m a week while its pubs are closed.

The chain revealed it doesn't expect its 800-plus pubs to open again until at least the end of March, and said it has made "zero" sales so far in 2021 due to the closures during lockdown. 

It also predicted that it would take until 2022 to return to trading levels from 2019 at its hotels and pubs, which include The Cricketers in Ipswich, The Corn Exchange in Bury St Edmunds, The Willow Tree in Stowmarket, Grover & Allen in Sudbury, The Joseph Conrad in Lowestoft, The Bottle Kiln in Harwich, and The Playhouse in Colchester.

JD Wetherspoon added more than 99% of its 37,674 current employees are furloughed. The group has reduced its staff levels by more than 6,000 since last March, including a raft of redundancies at its head office and airport sites.

Tim Martin, chairman of Wetherspoon, said: "The Covid-19 outbreak is having a severe impact on the UK pub sector.

"After a number of false starts, the hospitality industry generally anticipates a return to more normal trading patterns in the spring and summer, as a result of the introduction of a mass vaccination programme."  

However, the group saw shares yesterday bounce to their strongest since March after it secured £94million by issuing 8.4m new shares.

Wetherspoon's hit the headlines just before Christmas when it defended its controversial posters questioning national lockdowns, which had been displayed at pubs including The Joseph Conrad.  

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Ahead of its equity raise, the chain said it believes it has cash reserves to last it until the end of the current financial year without securing an additional government loan.

Shares in the company moved 61p higher to 1,244p at the close of play yesterday.