Wetherspoons has announced plans to open 18 new pubs and refurbish dozens more – but warned the investment was conditional on no more lockdowns and “constant changing of rules”.
The pub chain said it was keen to begin the £145m project, expected to take around two years and create 2,000 jobs, within weeks of pubs reopening fully later this year.
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It expects to follow this with a £750m investment to open 15 new pubs and enlarge 50 existing pubs each year for ten years, resulting in a further 20,000 jobs.
The announcement comes after previous, more modest investment plans disclosed in November 2019 were put on ice as a result of the pandemic.
Wetherspoons chairman Tim Martin, an outspoken critic of the government’s coronavirus rules, warned however that further shutdowns or restrictions could put the brakes on the latest move.
Mr Martin said: “We are geared up to start on the first projects within a few months.
“We are also committed to our long-term investment and job creation programme over the next decade.
“However, the investment is conditional on the UK opening back up again on a long-term basis, with no further lockdowns or the constant changing of rules.”
The initial £145m investment has a pipeline of 75 projects – 18 new pubs plus 57 major extensions and refurbishments to its existing 871 pubs.
The new pubs will be in Leeds, Kings Norton (Birmingham), Newport Pagnell, Shawlands (Glasgow), Felixstowe, Heswall, Sheffield, Bishopston (Bristol), Hamilton, Diss, Bourne, Grays, Edinburgh, Crystal Palace, Ely, Dublin, Limerick and Galway.
Mr Martin said the investment would provide work for architects, contractors and builders, as well as 2,000 new jobs for staff in pubs.
Earlier this month, the Wetherspoons boss called for an end to the “mayhem” of lockdowns and tier restrictions as the company slumped to a £68m half-year loss.
The company has said that it will open patios, beer gardens and rooftop gardens at 394 of its pubs in England from 12 April as COVID-19 restrictions ease, allowing licensed premises to serve people sitting outside.
They will be allowed to open indoors from 17 May.
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