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The pub group JD Wetherspoon will reopen another wave of pubs in England on 26 April, along with venues in Scotland and Wales, as the easing of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions continues.
The 44 English pubs scheduled to reopen on that date are mostly venues with smaller outdoor areas, in some cases patios that are able to seat only between 20 and 30 customers.
The pubs to open on 26 April are in London, as well as in Guildford, Ilkeston, Lincoln, Morecambe, Camborne, Driffield, Nottingham and Reading, adding to the 394 venues that reopened on 12 April when outdoor hospitality was permitted.
Unlike Wetherspoon’s larger venues, such as the Fox on the Hill in Denmark Hill, south London, which can seat more than 800 customers, these 44 smaller venues were not a priority for reopening earlier in April.
The group has not released trading figures since reopening its beer gardens and outside areas but said customers were keen to return to pubs.
The reopening programme will continue with 60 sites in Scotland and 32 pubs in Wales on 26 April, followed by three venues in Northern Ireland on 30 April.
This will mean that 533 of the company’s 871 UK pubs will have reopened, representing about 60% of its estate. The majority of the remaining Wetherspoon’s pubs do not have any outdoor space and cannot reopen until indoor drinking and dining is permitted to reopen, which is from 17 May in England.
From 26 April, all of Wetherspoon’s reopened pubs will have extended opening hours and will trade for an extra hour each day, beginning at 9am.
The company will offer customers a slightly reduced menu and customers will be able to order and pay through the Wetherspoon’s app or through table service.
Wetherspoon’s will not operate a booking system for its venues and has confirmed that customers will be allowed to enter the premises to reach the outside area or to reach the toilets.
“We look forward to welcoming our customers and staff back to our pubs,” Wetherspoon’s chief executive, John Hutson, said.
Tim Martin, Wetherspoon’s founder and chairman and a regular critic of the government during the coronavirus pandemic, has previously dismissed the idea of vaccine passports for pub-goers, calling them “fanciful and disproportionate” for struggling hospitality venues.
Along with other hospitality businesses, Wetherspoon’s has been hit hard by successive lockdowns and it made a loss of £68m in the six months to 24 January after its sales halved.
Despite this, the pub operator has announced plans to invest £145m in new venues and refurbishing existing pubs, a move that will create 2,000 jobs. However, Martin has described the spending as being conditional on a lasting reopening of the hospitality sector and no further lockdowns.