Wetherspoons has unveiled an £11 million masterplan to reopen its 875 pubs safely when more lockdown restrictions are lifted.
Under the ‘new normal’ drinkers will be expected to sanatise their hands on arrival and follow one-way systems through the bar where the tills will be screened off to protect staff, who will be provided with PPE including masks, gloves and eye protection.
The pub chain, ran by millionaire Tim Martin, will encourage customers to order from an app or by contactless card but will not be banning cash. Drinkers will be encouraged to sit outside in the pubs’ gardens, while tables inside will be surrounded by screens to ensure social distancing.
The chain’s food menu will be scaled back and condiment bottles removed and replaced with sachets.
Each pub will have a minimum of ten hand sanitiser dispensers and at least two full-time employees who will regularly clean surfaces and touch points.
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Every employee will need to complete and sign a daily health assessment questionnaire to confirm that they are fit to work, which will include having their temperature taken using a digital thermometer.
Pubs were forced to close on March 20, three days before the country was officially ordered into lockdown due to the coronavirus crisis.
Wetherspoons said the £11 million investment means the business will be ready to reopen as soon as the government gives it the go ahead. This is not expected to be until July at the earliest.
Wetherspoon chief executive John Hutson said: ‘At present the government have not confirmed any reopening date for pubs.
‘However, it is important that we are prepared for any announcement.
‘We have spent a number of weeks consulting with staff who work in our pubs, as well as area managers in order to draw up our plans.
‘We have received more than 2,500 suggestions from our staff.
‘The safety of our staff and customers is paramount.’
While it may be welcome news for some, many have vowed to boycott the chain over its handling of staff at the beginning of the crisis.
Tim Martin came under fire in March for telling employees they would not be paid after pubs shut, suggesting they get jobs at Tesco instead. He also told chain suppliers they would not be paid what they are owed until the massive pub estate is allowed to reopen when the coronavirus lockdown ends.
He was forced into a U-turn following fierce backlash, confirming that staff would be paid under the tax-payer funded Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
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