Wetherspoon pushes back last orders by an hour from next week

Happy hour! Wetherspoon pushes back last orders by an hour from next week as chain reopens 136 more pubs after lockdown restrictions eased

  • A further 44 pubs in England will open for business from April 26, totalling 438 
  • Wetherspoon will also be opening 60 of its pubs in Scotland and 32 in Wales 
  • New pub openings include those in Swansea, Reading, Lincoln, and London  

Wetherspoon will open more of its pubs across the country next week and will extend opening times by an hour as the easing of the lockdown continues, the company has announced.

A further 44 pubs in England with smaller beer gardens and outdoor areas are set to open for business from April 26, adding to the 394 which opened last week. 

The new pub openings include branches in Guildford, Ilkeston, Lincoln, Morecambe, Camborne, Driffield, Nottingham and Reading, and London.

All pubs remaining shut have no viable outdoor space to accommodate customers at this time, a spokesman for Wetherspoon said. 

Wetherspoon will also go ahead with opening 60 of its pubs in Scotland and 32 in Wales next week and three pubs in Northern Ireland on April 30.

The John Fancis Basset, Camborne, set to open April 26

Eric Bartholomew, Morecambe, set to open April 26

The Rodboro Buildings, Guilford, set to open April 26

Beer giant Heineken has said UK sales by volume plunged by around 30 per cent in the first three months of 2021 as pubs remained shut during the lockdown.

The Dutch brewer said UK on-trade sales were close to zero in the three months to the end of March, which even surging off-trade sales – up by a ‘low-30s’ percentage – could not offset.

This contributed to an overall 9.7 per cent fall in beer sales by volume across Europe in the quarter.

But Heineken – which also brews brands including Birra Moretti, Sol and Amstel – said that, across the wider group, beer volumes were in line with a year earlier when the pandemic first struck, thanks to strong growth in Africa and Asia.

The result was 2.1 per cent below the first quarter of 2019.

Net profits soared 79 per cent to 168 million euros (£144.9 million) year on year in the first quarter, but were 44 per cent lower than the same period in 2019.

Chairman and chief executive Dolf van den Brink said: ‘We had a solid start to the year, despite facing severe restrictions across many markets and the closure of the on-trade in Europe due to the pandemic.’

The group is axing 8,000 jobs globally – almost 10 per cent of its 85,000 staff – as part of efforts to save cash in the face of the pandemic.

The swingeing cuts were announced in February as the group revealed it swung to a net loss of 204 million euros (£176 million) in 2020, compared with a 2.2 billion euro (£1.9 billion) profit the previous year.

In its latest update, Heineken said less than 30 per cent of the European on-trade market was operating at the start of April.

But, with English pubs reopening their beer gardens on April 12 and other countries beginning to follow suit, it said trade should begin to bounce back.

The group said: ‘Our business continues to be significantly impacted by the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic.

‘We expect market conditions to gradually improve into the second part of the year, depending on the rollout of vaccines.’

The group said its flagship Heineken brand had a better first quarter, with sales up 12.1 per cent and double-digit growth seen in 40 countries.

It added that it has continued to support pubs affected by restrictions, waiving 19 million euros (£16.4 million) of rental payments for UK customers. 

William Ryder, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: ‘Heineken’s first quarter paints a mixed picture, which is to be expected as Covid-19 is still having a varied impact around the world.

‘Tough restrictions and successful vaccination programmes now may unleash stronger trading down the line.

‘Meanwhile, another wave of infections may mean regions that are performing well at the moment could be forced to impose more restrictions in the future.’

It will result in 533 of the company’s 871 pubs being open.

From April 26 all Wetherspoon pubs, including those that opened on April 12 with reduced opening hours, will be staying open for an hour longer each day.

Pubs in England will be open from 9am to 10pm (Sunday to Thursday inclusive) and 9am to 11pm (Friday and Saturday), although some have restrictions on closing times and in those cases will close earlier. 

Since opening on April 12 the Wetherspoon pubs have been opening for the reduced hours of 9am until 9pm (Sunday to Thursday) and from 9am until 10pm (Friday to Saturday). 

Customers will be able to enter the pubs to gain access to the outside area and also to use toilets.

They will offer a slightly reduced menu, with food available from 9am to 8pm seven days a week. 

Customers will be able to order and pay through the Wetherspoon app, and staff will be able to take orders and payment at the table.

The pubs will not be operating a booking system.

Wetherspoon chief executive John Hutson said: ‘We are looking forward to opening the extra pubs in England as well as those in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

‘We look forward to welcoming our customers and staff back to our pubs.’

From April 26 hospitality venues in Scotland can open until 8pm indoors – but without alcohol – and 10pm outdoors. 

In Wales hospitality will also be allowed to reopen outdoors from Monday. 

The news comes as the boss of one of the country’s largest pub chains said drinkers are returning to watering holes in greater numbers than predicted.

Shepherd Neame chief executive Jonathan Neame said that the brewer reopened more than 200 pubs from last Monday, around two thirds of its total.

Mr Neame said: ‘Many customers have returned to our pubs in the first week to enjoy great hospitality in a relaxed and safe environment. Although it is early days, trade levels so far have been above expectation.’

By the time all Shepherd Neame’s pubs reopen indoors in less than a month from now, according to the Government’s current road map, they will have been shut for 297 out of the last 423 days.

‘Inevitably this has had a severe impact on our numbers during this time,’ the chief executive said.

As a result, the company swung to a £7.2 million pre-tax loss in the last six months of 2020. It had made a £5.4 million profit a year earlier.

Turnover in the same period dropped 30 per cent to £55.3 million.

The period included the summer reopening, including the Eat Out To Help Out scheme in August, which helped boost dining establishments.

Shepherd Neame was able to stave off some problems by increasing sales of bottled beer from its brewery by more than a quarter.

That way, and by controlling costs, it was able to restrict the amount of cash it was burning through each month when pubs were closed from £2 million to £1.5 million.

The company also claimed £5.7 million in Government support, including the furlough scheme, business grants and business rates relief.

However, trading has been encouraging since reopening, and like pubs across the country, Shepherd Neame hopes it can tap into a market full of pubgoers who have not been able to visit their local for several months.

Mr Neame said: ‘There is significant pent-up demand in the economy. The consumer savings ratio is at high levels, and all indications are that the demand for events, for festivals, for live sport, for going out for a meal and for socialising with friends is as strong as ever.’ 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown, with indoor hospitality expected to reopen May 17 in England

Founder and Chairman of JD Wetherspoon, Tim Martin, who has criticised the Government’s handling of the pandemic. Pictured: October 2020 

He added: ‘Furthermore, with the ongoing restrictions in place on international travel, most people will choose to holiday in the UK this year. As a result, we believe that our recovery will be strong through late summer and autumn 2021.’   

Last month JD Wetherspoon revealed it had registered a heavy drop in sales and a £52.8million pre-tax loss in its last six-month period as pub chains were devastated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Revenue at the Watford-based company dropped by nearly 54 per cent to £431million in the half year to the end of January, even as pubs were allowed to reopen, albeit under restrictions, for part of that time. 

The Mount Stuart, Cardiff, set to open April 26

The Last Post, Southend, Essex, set to open April 26

Skylark, Croydon, London, set to open April 26

Lady Chatterley, Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, set to open April 26

Goodmans Field, east London, set to open April 26

Fall Well, Liverpool, set to open April 26

To help get through the crisis, Wetherspoon has tapped into the Government’s furlough scheme, claiming more than £97million in the half year. 

It also took a loan from the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme in August last year, and agreed a second CBILS loan of nearly £52million last month, Wetherspoon said. 

Its chairman Tim Martin, who has criticised the Government’s handling of the pandemic, said the future of the industry depended on a ‘consistent set of sensible policies’ and the ending of lockdowns and tier systems.

The company, which posted its first annual loss since 1984 in fiscal year 2020, has had to cut hundreds of jobs and ask investors for money twice, to get through the pandemic.   

People get into the party spirit outside Wetherspoon’s Turls Green pub in Centenary Square, Bradford, West Yorkshire, as it opened on April 12

People waiting to get into their local Wetherspoon pub for first drinks of the day in Bournemouth town centre, Dorset, on April 12

Crowds line up to enter a Wetherspoon in Bournemouth, Dorset, on April 12

Wetherspoon pubs opening from April 26:

Additional venues opening in England from April 26:   

Amber Rooms, Loughborough

Benjamin Fawcett, Driffield

Butter Cross, Bingham

Clairville, Wallasey

Columbia Press, Watford

Eric Bartholomew, Morecambe

Fall Well, Liverpool

Friar Penketh, Warrington

Gate Clock, Greenwich

Goodmans Field, London

Grey Friar, Preston

High Main, Byker

Holland Tringham, Streatham

Hope & Champion, Beaconsfield

Hope Tap, Reading

Ivy Wall, Spalding

John Francis Basset, Camborne

Lady Chatterley, Eastwood

Last Post, Southend

Lord John, Stroud

Mail Rooms, Ross On Wye

Man in the Wall, Wimborne

Mockbeggar Hall, Birkenhead

MUW, Leicester Square

Observatory, Ilkeston

Old Market Hall, Mexborough

Paramount, Manchester

Plough, Hammersmith

Red Lion, Skegness

Reginald Mitchell, Hanley

Richard John, Blackler

Rising Sun, Redditch

Rockingham Arms, Elephant & Castle

Rodboro Buildings, Guildford

Rupert Brooke, Rugby

Six Gold Marlets, Burgess Hill

Skylark, Croydon 

Square Sail, Lincoln

Swan Inn, Weymouth

Thomas Sheraton, Stockton

Three Magnets, Letchworth

Trent Bridge Inn, West Bridgford

Wetherspoons, Milton Keynes

William Jameson, Sunderland 

Venues opening in Scotland from April 26: 

Alexander Bain, Wick

Alexander Graham Bell, Edinburgh

An Ruadh Ghlean, Rutherglen

Archibald Simpson, Aberdeen

Auld Brig, Irvine

Bobbing John, Alloa

Booking Office, Edinburgh Waverley Station

Bourtree, Hawick

Brandon Works, Motherwell

Caley Picture House, Edinburgh

Capital Asset, Perth

Captain James Lang, Dumbarton

Carrick Stone, Cumbernauld

Carron Works, Falkirk

Corn Exchange, Arbroath

Corryvreckan, Oban

Counting House, Dundee

Counting House, Glasgow

Cross Keys, Peebles

Cross Keys, Peterhead

Crossed Peels, Stirling

Crystal Palace, Glasgow

David MacBeth Moir, Mussleburgh

Esquire House, Anniesland

Fair O-Blair, Blairgowrie

Foot of the Walk, Leith

Golden Acorn, Glenrothes

Gordon Highlander, Inverurie

Great Glen, Fort William

Guildhall and Linen Exchange, Dunfermline

Hay Stook, East Kilbride

Hengler’s Circus, Glasgow

Henry Bell, Helensburgh

Hunters Hall, Galashiels

James Watt, Greenock

John Fairweather, Cambuslang

Jollys Hotel, Broughty Ferry

Justice Mill, Aberdeen

King’s Highway, Inverness

Kirky Puffer, Kirkintilloch

Last Post, Paisley

Lord of the Isles, Glasgow

Muckle Cross, Elgin

Newyearfield, Livingston

Paddle Steamer, Largs

Playfair, Edinburgh

Priest Pioneer, Prestwick

Robert Nairn, Kirkcaldy

Robert The Bruce, Dumfries

Salt Cot, Saltcoates

Saltoun Inn, Fraserburgh

Sir John Moore, Glasgow

Sir John Stirling Maxwell, Glasgow

Society Room, Glasgow

Standing Order, Edinburgh

Vulcan, Coatbridge

West Kirk, Ayr

Wheatsheaf Inn, Kilmarnock

White Lady, Corstorphine

Wishaw Malt, Wishaw 

Venues opening in Wales from April 26: 

Aneurin Bevan, Cardiff

Bank Statement, Swansea

Bellhanger, Chepstow

Black Boy, Newtown

Black Bull Inn, Bangor

Castle Hotel, Ruthin

Central Bar, Cardiff

Central Hotel, Shotton

Ernest Willows, Cardiff

Gatekeeper, Cardiff

George Hotel, Brecon

Godfrey Morgan, Newport

Gold Cape, Mold

Great Western, Cardiff

John Fielding, Cwmbran

King’s Head, Monmouth

Mardy Inn, Swansea

Mount Stuart, Cardiff

Olympia, Tredegar

Potters Wheel, Swansea

Red Lion Inn, Swansea

Sawyer’s Arms, Maesteg

Sir Samuel Romilly, Barry

Sirhowy, Blackwood

Tafarn Y Porth, Caernarfon

Tumble Inn, Pontypridd

William Owen, Haverfordwest

Y Dic Penderyn, Merthyr Tydfil

Yr Hen Orsaf, Aberystwyth

Yr Ieuan Ap Iago, Aberdare  

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