Attack on restrictions
Wetherspoon boss denies pubs are ‘dangerous places’
Tim Martin: ‘widely misunderstood’
Pub chain boss Tim Martin has taken aim at the restrictions placed on bars, rejecting claims that they are “dangerous places”.
Mr Martin, who heads up Wetherspoon, said it has had approximately 32 million customer visits to its 861 open pubs in the 10 weeks since 4 July.
There have been 66 positive tests for Covid-19 among its 41,564 employees during this time, with 811 pubs reporting zero positive tests, 40 pubs reporting one, six pubs two, two pubs three and two pubs four.
Most of the reported cases have been mild or asymptomatic and 28 of the 66 employees have already returned to work, after self-isolating in accordance with medical guidelines.
Mr Martin’s comments came ahead of an admission by Dr Christine Tait-Burkard, expert in immunity at Edinburgh University, that the Rule of Six “might have been pulled out of a hat” and adds that “whatever the government chose is relatively obscure to everyone.”
Mr Martin said: “The situation with regard to pubs has been widely misunderstood.
“For example, Professor Hugh Pennington, of Aberdeen University, has said, without scientific evidence, that pubs are “dangerous places to be” (Daily Express, 14 August).
“This sort of negative view about pubs may have been fuelled by inaccurate press headlines.
“The Daily Mail (11 September), for example, said “Britons have promised to run riot” during the weekend and referred to the situation as being like “the last days of Rome”.
Wetherspoons has had 32m visitors and 66 cases of Covid
“In fact, trade was very quiet over the weekend, as the public weighed up the evidence about the alleged dangers of going out – Wetherspoon sales were 22.5% below the equivalent Saturday last year.
“It is clearly not the case that pubs are “dangerous places to be”.
“There have been more positive cases at one farm in Hereford than at all Wetherspoon pubs – and over four times as many at one sandwich-making facility in Northampton.
“As Swedish epidemiologist Johan Giesecke has said (Appendix 1 attached), strong scientific evidence shows that handwashing and social distancing, as practised by most pubs, work.
“In this connection, Wetherspoon has invested around £15 million on comprehensive social distancing and hygiene measures.
“These include reducing capacity, spacing out tables, the installation of screens between tables and around tills, and an average of ten hand sanitisers per pub.
“Bad decisions are built on false presumptions, like those of Professor Pennington and the Daily Mail.”
Mr Martin added: “If pubs are closed, or restricted so much that they become unprofitable, a great deal of the strenuous effort of the hospitality industry’s 3.2 million employees, currently engaged on upholding hygiene and social distancing standards, will be lost – leaving the public to socialise at home or elsewhere, in unsupervised circumstances.
“A major difference between the UK’s and Sweden’s approach, as reflected in comments from the Daily Mail and the approach of the government, is a lack of trust in the public.
“The UK has adopted a colossally expensive “big brother” approach, based on exhortation, lockdowns, bewilderingly frequent changes of direction and other heavy-handed initiatives.
“In Sweden, public policy is based on trusting the people (see Professor Giesecke’s comments attached) and this will eventually lead to far superior results.
“Although it is clearly possible for Covid-19 infections to take place in pubs and shops, the evidence indicates that the risk is low, provided social distancing and hygiene rules are followed, and common sense is used.”
Support Daily Business
Your one-off donation from as little as £20 helps support quality journalism