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Wed 11th Nov 2020 - JDW’s Tim Martin – ‘regulatory situation is a complete muddle’
JDW’s Tim Martin – ‘regulatory situation is a complete muddle’: JD Wetherspoon has reported that the 15 weeks to 8 November 2020 saw like-for-like sales decrease by 27.6%. The company stated: “Sales in October were significantly lower than the previous months, following the imposition of a number of new restrictions, including changes in the tier categories, a 10pm curfew, a requirement to order all food and drink ‘at the table’, and the mandatory use of face masks when moving around inside pubs. As of today, 756 pubs in England, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are closed. These pubs will remain closed until the company receives guidance from the UK and Irish governments to the effect that pubs are permitted to re-open. There are currently 64 trading pubs in Scotland and 51 in Wales. The Scottish pubs, in particular, are subject to an extremely onerous tier system which, as has been widely reported, is having a serious effect on trade. The company undertook a share placing in April 2020 that raised £137.7 million, and £48.3 million was raised through a CLBILS loan in August 2020. The company had £234 million of liquidity on 25 October 2020. Liquidity is significantly higher, and current liabilities are lower, than before the March lockdown. We estimate the ‘cash burn’ during the month of closure to be approximately £14 million.” Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin said: “For any pub or restaurant company trading in different parts of the UK, and for customers generally, the constantly changing national and local regulations, combined with geographical areas moving from one tier to another in the different jurisdictions, are baffling and confusing. The entire regulatory situation is a complete muddle. However, the initial regulations, following reopening, introduced on 4 July, were carefully thought through, followed thorough consultation, and were based on solid scientific foundations of social distancing and hygiene. The benefits of the regulatory hyperactivity since then, including the imposition of a curfew, are questionable. A particular anxiety in the hospitality industry relates to the future timescale for the ending of ‘temporary’ regulations. Veterans of the industry will recall that the afternoon closing of pubs between about 3pm and 6pm was imposed in the First World War, to encourage munitions workers to return to their factories – but the requirement for afternoon closing was only abolished in 1986.”

Middletons Steakhouse and Grill secures ex-Café Rouge site in Cambridge: Norfolk-based Middletons Steakhouse and Grill is to return to the expansion trail with an opening next month in Cambridge. Propel has learned that the eight-strong business, which is led by Stephen Hutton, has secured the former Café Rouge site in Cambridge’s Bridge Street, with an open scheduled for 7 December, government guidance permitting. The company, which opened its first Middletons Steakhouse and Grill in King’s Lynn in 2010, opened its latest site at the end of 2018 in Chelmsford, after securing the former Jamie’s Italian Trattoria in the town’s High Street. The company’s other sites are in Colchester, Leicester, Milton Keynes, Norwich, Peterborough and Watford. Jake Bernstone, of Stonebrook London, acted on the Cambridge deal.

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