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Tim Martin denies telling shareholders Wetherspoon pubs will re-open in June

Tim Martin, the founder of J.D. Wetherspoon, has denied claims that he told investors the company will re-open pubs in June this year.

All 874 Wetherpoon pubs have been shut since 20 March, when UK prime minister Boris Johnson told bars, restaurants, hotels, and leisure centres to close their doors to help slow the spread of coronavirus.

The government has not yet given any indication of when hospitality venues will be allowed to re-open, although Michael Gove has said pubs and restaurants will be among the last businesses to do so.

Martin said in the company’s half yearly results presentation that its “immediate priority is to manage the business during the current ‘lockdown’ period. It is also starting to plan for a reopening of pubs and hotels in or around June.”

However, Martin told the drinks business: “We have no insight whatsoever as to when pubs might reopen and no information from, or hotline to, the government.”

“We’ve made an assumption, just for planning purposes, that pubs might be allowed to reopen in June,” he said, “but we don’t know more than anyone else.”

The announcement coincided with a the launch of an equity offering to help the company stave off the worst affects of the lockdown. Martin, whose company has furloughed 99% of its 43,000 employees and paying roughly 80% of staff’s pre-lockdown wages, is trying to raise £141 million to give the estate a boost. Shares are being placed by Investec at 900p a share. Wetherspoon’s hare price rose by 89p, or 10.3 per cent, during Wednesday’s trading session.

Martin told db his decision to plan for a re-opening in June had “nothing to do with the share price rise,” adding the share price had already risen “before the reopening story took off”, and has been flat since. Wetherspoon’s share price has now fallen back to roughly the same price it stood at on Wednesday midday.

Robert Buckland, the government’s justice secretary, told the BBC: “My advice to all businesses is please work together with Government.

“We need to have a coordinated approach to this. Mixed messages help nobody. One of the great successes of these last few terrible weeks has been the clarity of the messaging.”

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