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Wetherspoon sets out plans for £145m post-lockdown investment

Wetherspoon chairman criticises possible vaccine passport

JD Wetherspoon (LON:JDW) has disclosed plans for a £145m investment aimed at expanding and upgrading its pubs – providing there is not another lockdown.

The FTSE 250 company has confirmed that the 75 projects would take over a year to complete and provide 2,000 new jobs. Over the coming decade the group is looking at investing an additional £750m, which would create a further 20,000 jobs.

The initial funding, set to begin this summer, will see 18 new pubs as well as 57 “significant” upgrades and extensions to existing sites.

Tim Martin, the Wetherspoon founder and chairman, said: “Our immediate investment will provide work for architects, contractors and builders as well as resulting in 2,000 new jobs for staff in our pubs.”

Martin reaffirmed his commitment to its long-term investment programme over the coming years but warned it is not a certainty.

“The investment is conditional on the UK opening back up again on a long-term basis, with no further lockdowns or the constant changing of rules,” Martin said.

“Since the great majority of our capital expenditure has always been funded by free cash flow, it would be reckless to proceed with major investment without a firm pledge that the lockdown and restrictions era is over. Excluding any capital expenditure whatsoever, the pub industry had a negative cash flow in the last year — investment without cashflow is Goodnight, Irene.”

The Wetherspoon also raised concerns over the possible introduction of coronavirus health certificates as England’s lockdown is eased in a Telegraph column.

The chairman of the pub chain said: “For many pubs, hanging on for dear life and devastated by G-force changes of direction, a complex and controversial passport scheme would be the last straw.

“It would inevitably put pub staff in the frontline of a bitter civil liberties war, with some customers unwilling to be vaccinated or unable to have a jab for medical reasons.”

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