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British pubs ravaged by new virus restrictions

·2-min read
Pubs are being hit by measures to control coronavirus
Pubs are being hit by measures to control coronavirus

Britain's pub industry is bearing the brunt of new restrictions introduced to combat rising coronavirus infection rates, sending stock prices tumbling on Friday.

Millions of people in London and across Britain will no longer be able to mix with other households from Saturday, although those from the same household will still be able to go the pub.

But soaring rates in northwest England have forced even more stringent restrictions, with pubs only allowed to serve alcohol as part of sit-down meals.

The Wetherspoon pub chain saw its share price plunge by 18 percent on Friday after it revealed losses of £105.4 million ($136 million, 116 million euros) as a result of the March to July lockdown -- its first deficit in 36 years.  

The group's combative boss, Tim Martin, criticised the government for imposing the initial lockdown for "far longer than was necessary to achieve its stated objective of 'flattening the curve'," and was scathing about the new restrictions.

"For the two months following reopening, it appeared that the hospitality industry... was adapting to the new regime and was getting 'back on its feet'," he said in a statement.

"It appears that the government and its advisers were clearly uncomfortable as the country emerged from lockdown. 

"They have introduced, without consultation, under emergency powers, an ever-changing raft of ill-thought-out regulations."

He urged Downing Street to adopt the pandemic model in Sweden, in which most shops and bars are left open while people most at risk are asked to self-isolate.

Rival pub chain Marston's on Thursday announced it was cutting 2,150 jobs as new restrictions, including a mandatory 10:00 pm closing time, began to take hold. 

The Greene King chain last week announced that 800 jobs were to be cut. 

The Night Time Industries Association, a sector body for leisure and hospitality, last week announced it was joining a lawsuit to challenge the restrictions.

It said they were "disproportionate" and would have a "catastrophic impact" for thousands working in the sector.

ved/jwp/phz/har