The boss of JD Wetherspoon is targeting a re-opening of his pubs in late June after bars were closed at the start of the coronavirus lockdown.
Tim Martin revealed his timeframe for a resumption in trading as the deputy chief medical officer for England shot down hopes that beer gardens could re-open any time soon.
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam told reporters at the daily Downing Street briefing that it was important social distancing measures were eased gradually so as not to risk a return of more COVID-19 cases and deaths.
Mr Martin, who attracted criticism last month for angrily suggesting his 43,000 staff go to work for Tesco if he had to shut down, argued his company was better placed than most to operate safely as he laid bare the effects of the lockdown on the business.
He said more than 99% of staff had been furloughed – receiving 80% of their March salaries as the business and its 874 pubs were placed in “hibernation” – despite an earlier threat to withhold wages until compensation from the government arrived.
Mr Martin said that while the chain had saved £60m through the business rates holiday, it had had to agree extended payment terms with a minority of suppliers and defer the majority of rents.
He revealed the company was to tap shareholders for up to £141m to boost its cash pile through the issue of new shares at 900p each.
He said it could also try to secure up to £50m more through a Bank of England loan scheme but admitted concerns over whether it would qualify for help under the terms of the Covid Corporate Financing Facility.
Mr Martin, JD Wetherspoon’s founder and chairman, had earlier said he was taking a voluntary pay cut of 50% in line with the chief executive and other directors.
On re-opening hopes, the statement said: “The company is likely to make some changes to its operating model, assuming increased social distancing, and anticipates a gradual recovery in customer numbers.
“Wetherspoon pubs are substantially larger than average, and most have outside facilities.
“The company believes these factors are likely to assist if social distancing measures apply.”
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