Watch: Wetherspoons plans to open 18 new pubs but warns over 'constant changing of rules'
Pub chain JD Wetherspoon (JDW.L) has announced an ambitious plan of investing £895m ($1.2m) to upgrade pubs as well as open new ones in a move it said will create 22,000 jobs.
However, founder and chairman Tim Martin warned that this "is conditional on the UK opening back up again on a long-term basis, with no further lockdowns or the constant changing of rules.”
In the first phase of this plan, Wetherspoon will invest £145m in building 18 new pubs plus extending and upgrading 57 current ones, creating some 2,000 jobs.
These will be in Leeds, Birmingham, Newport Pagnell, Heswall, Sheffield, Felixstowe, Dublin, Haverfordwest, Carmarthen and Glasgow.
Its next step will include investing another £750m to open 15 new pubs and expand 50 existing pubs each year for ten years. It believes this will result in 20,000 new jobs.
The company is keen to start the development project within weeks of its pubs reopening fully, it said. Its shares were up roughly 1% on Tuesday morning.
It had earlier said it will open outdoor spaces at 394 of its pubs in England from 12 April and 60 of its pubs in Scotland from 26 April.
JD Wetherspoon currently operates 871 pubs in the UK and Ireland.
“Our immediate investment will provide work for architects, contractors and builders as well as result in 2,000 new jobs for staff in our pubs. We are geared up to start on the first projects within a few months," said Martin.
“We are also committed to our long-term investment and job creation programme over the next decade," he added.
The hospitality sector in general, and pubs in particular, have been hit badly due to lockdowns.
UK prime minister Boris Johnson had announced that retailers and outdoor hospitality venues may reopen from 12 April in England, as the country continues its vaccination rollout. More than 30 million people in the country have received at least one dose of the coronavirus jab.
Earlier, Martin had asked the government to reopen pubs at the same time as non-essential shops.
In a statement, the pub tycoon had said that the industry is "on its knees" and that reopening would save jobs.
Alongside the plea, Martin also told Sky News that he intended to bring back the 37,000 staff that are currently on furlough as soon as the chain gets the go-ahead to reopen.
He had said that the pub industry makes a massive contribution to the economy, and Wetherspoon alone pays about £10 of tax for every pound of profit it makes.
Industry groups UK Hospitality and the British Beer and Pub Association have also joined these calls, showing evidence that they say shows pubs and restaurants are COVID-secure environments.
Meanwhile the government has said it will create a £150m pot that will allow communities to take over local pubs that have been hurt by the pandemic.
Watch: What UK government COVID-19 support is available?