JD Wetherspoon says 32 million customers have visited its pubs since lockdown eased

JD Wetherspoon has seen around 32 million people visit its pubs since they reopened from lockdown, the firm has said alongside revealing how many staff have tested positive for Covid-19.

The company said the customers went to 861 open venues in the 10 weeks since July 4. That’s when pubs were given the green light to reopen in England.

Pubs in Scotland, Wales and Ireland opened at a later date. There are still 11 JD Wetherspoon venues that remain closed. Sites had previously been shut since March when the lockdown started.

The pubs giant, chaired by Tim Martin, gave the update alongside reporting on Covid-19 testing and weekend trading ahead of restrictions banning social gatherings of more than six people coming into effect today. It was expected that a number of people would flock to pubs ahead of the new rule coming in.

Martin said 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”.

Meanwhile, the company said there have been 66 positive tests for Covid-19 among its 41,564 employees during the 10 weeks since July 4.

Across its pubs open during the period, 811 have reported zero positive tests, 40 have reported one, six pubs two, two pubs three and two pubs four.

JD Wetherspoon said 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.

There have been concerns that any overcrowding in pubs could make social distancing difficult.

Martin pointed out the firm has invested around £15 million on social distancing and hygiene measures, such as spacing out tables, the installation of screens between tables and around tills, and an average of ten hand sanitisers per pub.

Martin cautioned: “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.”