Wetherspoons mocked Boris Johnson over Downing Street ‘high jinks’ during lockdown – and suggested it would have been better if staff had been partying in his pubs instead.
The comments from the channel run by Tim Martin – a Brexit enthusiast and once a prominent supporter of Mr Johnson – come as the Prime Minister faces increased political pressure over the gatherings in 2020.
Wetherspoons made the statement as he reported a sales success over the Christmas period blamed on restrictions aimed at stopping the spread of the Omicron variant – which he has previously described as a “stealth lock” – and confirmed it was heading for a half-year loss.
The pub chain took the opportunity to turn fire on Mr Johnson – a man Mr Martin once described as a ‘winner’ who ‘would make a good Prime Minister’.
Wetherspoons said while public anger over ‘partygate’ centered on hypocrisy, it also highlighted other ramifications of the lockdowns and pub closures that were in effect at the time.
In a statement, he said: “If, instead of partying at No 10 on May 20, 2020, for example, attendees had been able to visit a pub (pubs were closed at the time), there would be had a number of benefits for the nation.”
Wetherspoons said the highly trained staff at its central London pubs “could have easily dealt with the ‘high jinks’ that occurred at No 10”.
He also said CCTV coverage at the scene would have helped gather evidence for “further investigations”.
Wetherspoons added: “In 2020, before vaccinations were available, COVID checks in pubs were superior to private parties, with screens, sanitizers, optimal seating arrangements etc.
“Wetherspoon, for example, recorded over 50 million customer visits in the second half of 2020, when pubs were allowed to reopen, and there were no virus outbreaks among customers, as defined by public health authorities, during this time.”
The statement appeared in a business update focusing on the impact of Plan B on the pub chain’s business.
Wetherspoons previously warned of the effect of the rules even though they did not order hospitality businesses to close, as the guidelines prompted many employees to work from home.
It said in its latest update that as a result, like-for-like sales for the 12 weeks to Jan. 16 fell 15.6%.
Mr Martin said: “The company will be loss-making in the first half of the financial year, but hopes that with the end of restrictions, improved customer confidence and improved weather conditions, its performance will be much better. in the second half.”
Stocks, still down sharply from pre-pandemic levels, fell another 2%.