Pubs are safer than homes at Christmas, says Wetherspoons boss

Tony Diver
Tim Martin, pictured on the campaign trail with Boris Johnson last year - WPA Pool/Getty Images 
Tim Martin, pictured on the campaign trail with Boris Johnson last year - WPA Pool/Getty Images

Going to a pub on Christmas Day is safer than the family living room, despite a Government ban on households mixing in hospitality venues, Tim Martin has said.

The Wetherspoons boss joined calls from industry groups for an amnesty on restrictions on pubs and restaurants over the five-day Christmas break.

“The data we have shows that the infection rate has risen, mainly due to social interactions, particularly private household gatherings,” he told The Telegraph.

“In shops and hospitality venues there are strict measures in place to ensure they are Covid-safe, whereas it is much easier to inadvertently pass on the virus in someone’s house, where people are more relaxed and less vigilant.”

Data shows that, among cases that can be tracked by Public Health England, transmission is more likely to take place in the home than in a pub or restaurant.

Under the Government’s Covid winter plan, up to three households may meet indoors without social distancing between December 23 and 27, but they cannot visit a hospitality venue together.

Industry groups including the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), UK Hospitality and The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) have called for the ban to be lifted, allowing families to enjoy a Christmas dinner out or a drink in a pub.

Kate Nicholls, the chief executive of UK Hospitality, said: “If you are allowing households to mix at Christmas, it makes perfect sense to allow, even encourage, them to do so in a socially distanced setting such as a pub or restaurant.

"We still have not seen any evidence that hospitality venues – which have invested great time effort and money to making their spaces Covid-secure – are a problem area in terms of infection, so it seems unfair and arbitrary that hospitality is being dealt such a harsh hand.

"It is a real blow, not to mention a mystifying one not to include pubs, bars and restaurants in the Christmas bubbles.”

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the BBPA, said the plans “made a mockery of the extra restrictions being placed on pubs and the economic devastation they are facing this Christmas”.

Industry leaders called for the publication of scientific evidence that supported household mixing but banned households visiting pubs and restaurants.

“The Government data has consistently shown that house-to-house transmission is one of the highest, whereas hospitality has accounted for as little as 2 per cent of Covid incidences when open,” she said.

Mr Martin, who runs 879 pubs in the UK and Ireland (where restrictions are different), said the industry was already struggling to stay afloat.

“You can’t exaggerate how bad it is,” he said.

“The elastic was stretched to breaking for most, as unemployment stats show, during the first lockdown.

“The new regulations and tier system guarantees unprofitable trading for many months to come.”