20 March 2020 16:44
THE boss of Wetherspoons has sparked a row by insisting his pubs should be allowed to stay open. Chairman Tim Martin claimed closing pubs would not have health benefits, despite the government's advice that people should stay away from gathering in bars and restaurants. His views contrast with those of the Brewhouse & Kitchen chain, which said it was "not prepared to run our business in denial". Mr Martin, 64, who describes himself as a former heavy smoker with two major operations under his belt, said he would take his chances with the disease. "If someone offered me the opportunity now to have it under supervised conditions, I think I'd probably take it because your chances are very, very good," he told reporters on a call.
He said: "Our main desire is that pubs should remain open, rather in the way that Parliament has remained open. "You'd be aghast if every MP was sitting next to every other MP, but it's right that it should stay open on a sensible basis." He said that "reasonable social distancing" would happen automatically in Wetherspoons as the number of punters drops. Wetherspoon's 867 pubs include Southampton revenues the Standing Order, the Admiral Sir Lucius Curtis and the Red Lion, as well as the Oal Gaolhouse in Winchester, the Wagon Works in Eastleigh and the Six Bells in Lymington. Mr Martin also said that he could introduce rules which prevent people from standing at the bar and would get staff to clean down the surfaces twice an hour. Mr Martin said that one of his pubs had introduced a regulars-only policy. This would not be possible to roll-out to all Wetherspoons outlets, but it is "one of a variety of moves" available to management. "Closure is much more draconian, and we don't think that it brings health benefits, and it certainly doesn't bring economic benefits," he added. Government advice, which it received from healthcare experts, is to stay away from pubs and restaurants to limit the spread of the disease. The Brewhouse & Kitchen and Loungers chains are closing temporarily. Brewhouse & Kitchen, which has a pub in Highfield Lane, Southampton, said in its announcement: "We are not prepared to 'play chicken' with the government, defy the advice of the science over the safety of our team, our guests and our wider communities. "We are responsible members of the community, and as such we will take the right and appropriate measures. It is time to show decisiveness, we are now consulting with our teams, who so far have been amazing and fully understand our decision, their support has been overwhelming. "We are not prepared to run our business in denial, we have made a difficult decision, we now need leadership and support over the coming months." It said it was working on "a number of initiatives to support our communities and health workers" and would reopen when it was safe.