Wetherspoon records heavy loss in past six months

The Cricketers in Crown Street, Ipswich, is one of the several JD Wetherspoon pubs across Suffolk.

The Cricketers in Crown Street, Ipswich, is one of the several JD Wetherspoon pubs across Suffolk. - Credit: GOOGLE MAPS

Pub giant Wetherspoon recorded a heavy drop in its sales and sustained a loss of almost £53million in its last six-month period.

The pub chain which runs The Cricketers in Ipswich, the Willow Tree in Stowmarket and The Corn Exchange in Bury St Edmunds, was hit hard by the closures and restrictions.

Revenue dropped by nearly 54% to £431million in the half year to the end of January, even as pubs were allowed to reopen, albeit under restrictions, for part of that time.

Meanwhile, the firm swung to a £52.8million pre-tax loss, from a £51.6million profit a year earlier.

Wetherspoon pubs, along with their rivals, were allowed to reopen again after months of lockdown last summer.

It meant that from July, around 50 million customer visits were clocked in across the pub giant’s pubs.

The business said it had notched up charges of £7.5million as it spent to ensure its pubs were safer, among other things.

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Screens were set up between tables to improve social distancing during the months that the pubs were open.

Yet a second national lockdown in November, and a reopening under tiered systems in December, only for doors to once again be slammed shut at the start of January, caused another painful period for the hospitality sector.

There is some light on the horizon.

According to government plans, pubs with beer gardens or other outdoor serving areas – which include 394 Wetherspoon sites – will be allowed to open on April 12.

This will progress to table-only service in May, and a full reopening in June.

To help get through the crisis, Wetherspoon has tapped into the government’s furlough scheme, claiming more than £97million in the half year.

It also took a loan from the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme in August last year, and has agreed a second CBILS loan of nearly £52million this month, Wetherspoon said.

Shares in the business dropped 1.6% on Friday morning as markets opened, and despite recovering since lows a year ago, they are still around 13% lower than before the big Covid-19 sell-off that hit markets in February.