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Wetherspoons boss Tim Martin has said pubs are being crippled by “unfair” taxes as the company yesterday reported a lag in sales compared to pre-pandemic levels. Mr Martin believes supermarkets, who are subject to less excruciating taxes, are taking up “about half” of beer sales. In response, he has called for taxes on pubs to have tax parity with supermarkets.
JD Wetherspoons, which runs 844 pubs across Britain and Ireland, yesterday reported sales growth of 13.1 percent in the 25 weeks leading to January 22, a drop of 0.7 percent compared to pre-Covid levels for the same period.
It comes as the pub chain closed 10 pubs and have 35 more up for sale.
Mr Martin said that unless pubs had tax parity with supermarkets, the pub industry would “inevitably shrink”.
Whetherspoons first launched in 1979. Its first premises was on Muswell Hill, North London where a former betting shop was converted into the first Spoons.
Over the years the pub chain has grown massively, and until 2016 was set to reach 1,000 pubs.
In the new report, the company which peaked at 951 pubs stated it had opened two pubs in January but sold ten and currently has 35 on the market.
The Whetherspoons boss argued against Supermarkets paying zero VAT on food sales, whereas pubs and restaurants paid 20 percent, which allowed them to subsidise the price of beer.
Mr Martin, 67, said: “We estimate that supermarkets have taken about half of the pub industry’s beer volumes since Wetherspoon started trading in 1979, a process that has likely accelerated following the pandemic.”
He has been a critic of other industry bosses who haven’t joined his campaign for tax parity.
He added: “Unless the industry campaigns strongly for equality, it will inevitably shrink relative to supermarkets, which will not help high streets, tourism, the economy overall or the ancient institution of the pub.”
Despite the shrink in growth, the chain was able to pay off Covid loans of £100 million.
Moreover, Whetherspoon’s sales growth is a drop from its positive results in the month of December.
That month, Mr Martin saw his company have sales growth of 21.3 percent, compared to the sector’s average of 15 percent.
Mr Martin also hit out at the government’s reaction over Covid, which has been “worse for businesses than inflation”.
He added: “Indeed, the creation of half a trillion of new money to pay for lockdowns and other measures was the main cause of inflation.”
In recent years, the boss has aired frustrations that previous pub goers are no longer coming to the pub because of the pandemic.
In the annual report last year, he said: “During lockdown, dyed-in-the-wool pub-goers, many for the first time, filled their fridges with supermarket beer, and it has proved to be a momentous challenge to persuade them to return to the more salubrious environment of the saloon bar.”
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