Wetherspoons boss warns of ‘devastating’ lockdown as pubs brace for restrictions

Wetherspoons boss Tim Martin has warned of another "devastating" lockdown – with fears that 900,000 jobs in the hospitality sector are in danger.

The 65-year-old pub chain owner fears the hospitality industry could be left in ruins as the government introduces local lockdowns and 10pm curfews to fight back against rising coronavirus infection rates.

There is also speculation a second "circuit breaker" lockdown lasting two weeks could be introduced next month in a bid to reduce Covid-19 infection rates.

Mr Martin owns the JD Wetherspoons chain which employs 43,000 people – and he fears smaller businesses could go bust in the event of further lockdowns.

Warning that such businesses were already at breaking point due to the first lockdown which lasted from March to July, he said during an interview with The Times that further lockdowns would be “even more devastating."

Meanwhile, Kate Nicholls, the chief executive of lobby group UK Hospitality, has highlighted that 900,000 hospitality workers are still currently on furlough.

There are fears the entire lot could be let go once the furlough scheme ends next month – and Ms Nicholls is urging Prime Minister Boris Johnson to act to protect those jobs.

Groups are pressuring the government and Chancellor Rishi Sunak to extend the furlough scheme beyond the end of October – and are calling for beer duty to be slashed and for an extension to the cut in VAT.

  • Pubs and restaurants could shut in days as Boris plots two-week 'circuit break' lockdown

Nick Mackenzie, chief executive of Greene King, which oversees 2,700 pubs, restaurants and hotels, has added his voice to the argument.

He told The Sun: “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.”

He continued: “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."

He went on to express fears that news of a "circuit break" two-week national lockdown could be a regular feature in the coming six months – predicting devastation on the hospitality sector as a consequence.

Meanwhile, economic researchers have also expressed fears that the recovery for the UK could be hindered by further lockdowns.

The economy was thrown into recession by the first lockdown – but bounced back better than expected with figures for July showing a rise in GDP by 6.6%.

Sanjay Raja, UK economist at Deutsche Bank, warned the recovery could be derailed by further lockdowns, telling The Sun: "Stricter social restrictions will weigh on the UK’s recovery. This is one reason we expect the recent GDP surge to be short-lived.”

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