Wetherspoon boss urges Government to call time on 10pm pubs curfew

JD Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin has called for the scrapping of the 10pm pubs curfew after his company reported an annual loss for the first time since 1984.

The bar chain’s chairman and founder said the Government’s requirement for customers to wear masks while not sitting at tables is also “damaging”.

Mr Martin made the comments to journalists on Friday after his firm sunk to a loss of £105.4 million after sales took a £556 million hit from the Covid-19 crisis.

Tim Martin announces Wetherspoon results
Tim Martin announces Wetherspoon results

He accused the Government of “panicking” and “shooting from the hip” in regard to recent coronavirus restrictions placed on pubs, including the introduction of the 10pm curfew.

Instead, Mr Martin, who has no medical qualifications, said the UK should follow the Swedish model of lighter measures.

He said on Friday: “When respiratory infections started to rise in autumn, they (the Government) panicked and started abusing emergency powers, and started shooting from the hip.”

In contrast, he said, the “ice-cool Swedes kept their heads and stuck to social distancing and hand-washing”, which he believes is a better option.

Mr Martin added: “I’d say that (we should) have a look at the Swedish model, it would avoid the confusion that has arisen in England, because we would concentrate on social distancing and hygiene measures.”

Asked what measures for pubs he would like to see removed, Mr Martin said: “The curfew and not allowing people to go up to the till like they can in shops”.

He also said the requirement for customers to wear a face covering while not sitting at a table is “psychologically damaging”, claiming: “I don’t think there’s any science to back that up.”

Mr Martin said earlier on Friday: “The most damaging regulation relates to the 10pm curfew, which has few supporters outside of the narrow cloisters of Downing Street and Sage meetings.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has previously conceded the curfew is a “matter of policy choice” to keep schools and workplaces open, rather than being driven by science.

He claimed there is “direct and approximate evidence” for the positive impact of the limits on pubs and restaurants, citing a fall in alcohol-related A&E admissions late at night.

The Government has said face coverings protect others – rather than the wearer – against the spread of infection, as the nose and mouth are the main confirmed sources of transmission of Covid-19.

Prof Jeremy Rossman, honorary senior lecturer in virology at the University of Kent, said earlier in October that countries that have forgone lockdown restrictions in favour of personal responsibility, such as Sweden, “were not able to successfully protect the vulnerable population”.