All Wetherspoons pubs across the UK will stay open, its boss has insisted, despite hundreds of its own staff being struck down with coronavirus symptoms.
The major Brit boozer chain is keeping all its 867 venues across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland open as the Covid-19 crisis sweeps the country.
Its boss Tim Martin has said that closing the pubs would be “over the top”, despite the government urging Brits not to visit bars and to stay indoors.
He described the global pandemic that has killed 144 people in the UK as a “health scare”, even though 1,600 of his 43,000 staff are also self-isolating as a result of the virus.
In an interview on Sky News, he said pubs should instead implement "social distancing" measures, like no standing at the bar.
He told the programme: "Our aim is for pubs open for the duration. This could go on for a long time.
"I think that once you shut them down it's very difficult.
"Supermarkets are very, very crowded. Pubs are much less crowded. There's hardly been any transmission of the virus within pubs and I think it's over the top to shut them.
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"That's a commercial view but also a common sense view."
When asked if he would be OK catching the virus himself, Martin – who is an ex-smoker and has had an operation for cancer – said: “Yes, if someone offered the opportunity to have it now I would probably take it.”
The boss admitted, however, that – as well staff self-isolating – there has been a significant hit to their sales and profits already.
"We now anticipate profits being below market expectations, so long as the current health scare continues," he said.
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But he also said he is confident his chain will survive.
"As a result of these actions, combined with the Government's proposals on business rates relief and credit guarantee facilities, the company believes it has sufficient liquidity to maintain operations at a substantially lower level of sales," he said.
"Wetherspoon, like our peers, will be working closely with all parties, including employees, banks, landlords and suppliers, in order to emerge from the situation in the best shape."
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