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Wetherspoons plans to open pubs in June

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British pub chain Wetherspoons has announced that it is planning to reopen its venues “in or around” June.

Wetherspoons chairman Tim Martin and chief executive John Hutson will be taking 50% pay cuts, while other board members will also slash their salaries.

The pub chain said it is also considering taking out a government-backed loan of up to £50m.

The news follows criticism of Mr Martin who told staff to take a job at Tesco after his pubs closed their doors.

However, Wetherspoons has not outlined how it plans to reopen in June, given that the government has not yet lifted lockdown restrictions or announced when that is likely to happen.

The BBC has approached Wetherspoons for comment.

“The coronavirus outbreak is having a severe impact on the UK pub sector,” said Mr Martin.

“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 re‐opening our pubs and hotels and welcoming back our teams in the near future.”

All of the chain’s 850 UK pubs were closed in March by the government announcement to shut bars and clubs to stop the spread of coronavirus.

The government has said it will pay 80% of salaries for staff who are kept on by their employer, covering wages of up to £2,500 a month.

But Mr Martin faced a backlash after telling 43,000 workers in a video on 24 March that they should feel free to take jobs at retailers such as Tesco while Wetherspoons pubs remain closed.

He had come under pressure from 95 MPs, who signed a petition for him to pay his workers.

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But the next day, Wetherspoons announced that it would be paying its staff, saying that it had been waiting for the government’s furlough payment scheme to kick in before issuing wages.

Wetherspoons said on Wednesday that it has furloughed 99% of its workforce.

Costs and financing

The pub chain said that it had been able to slash overheads, maintenance costs and capital expenditure, as well as deferring a majority of rental payments due in March and deferring tax payments.

However, Wetherspoons is still looking at a bill of about £3m a month during the lockdown in order to cover topping up employee salaries and interest on existing loans.

The chain is however eligible for the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme and says it is considering applying for a loan.

As of 22 March 2020, Wetherspoons had a net debt of £836m, up from £804.5m on 26 January 2020.

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