Wetherspoon's boss vows to keep Sheffield bars open

The boss of a pub chain with six bars in Sheffield has vowed to keep his venues open during the coronavirus crisis.
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Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning, Tim Martin, the chairman of UK pub giant JD Wetherspoons, said a shutdown would be ‘over the top’.

Mr Martin – whose company owns around 900 pubs and employs 37,000 people – said they should stay open but with increased 'social distancing’ in place, like Parliament.

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He said: “Parliament is open and everyone says, 'yes, sensible'.

The Benjamin Huntsman on Cambridge Street in Sheffield.The Benjamin Huntsman on Cambridge Street in Sheffield.
The Benjamin Huntsman on Cambridge Street in Sheffield.

“I think it's the same, I don't think you can shut down all pubs and shops indefinitely.

“I think the sensible balance is for pubs to open but implement social distancing measures in pubs.

“I don't think a shut down is sensible policy, it's over the top.”

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Wetherspoons has seven pubs in Sheffield including three in the city centre – The Banker’s Draft, The Benjamin Hunstman and Lloyds.

JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin (Jonathan Brady/PA Wire).JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin (Jonathan Brady/PA Wire).
JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin (Jonathan Brady/PA Wire).

It also has The Sheaf Island on Ecclesall Road, The Francis Newton in Broomhill, The Rawson Spring in Hillsborough and The Woodseats Palace on Chesterfield Road.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged people to stop going to pubs, restaurants and theatres but stopped short of enforcing a ban.

But others, such as Doncaster MP and former Labour leader Ed Miliband, are calling for stronger action from the Government.

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On Twitter, he said: “As well as a comprehensive economic package tomorrow, the government surely now should be ordering the shutdown of cafes, pubs, restaurants etc.

“There is no good explanation of why not and it is undermining social distancing.”

Other large Sheffield venues that are also staying open during the scare include the Corporation nightclub on Milton Street and Walkabout on Carver Street.

Corporation’s decision to continue with its ‘DROP’ night was criticised on social media with one clubber commenting 'seriously?'

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And Walkabout said on its Facebook page that they were following all Government guidance and would be enforcing 'enhanced health and hygiene practices’.

Mr Martin's stance was criticised on social media after the interview.

James Melville said keeping so many pubs open during the crisis was ‘grossly irresponsible’.

And Piers Morgan described Martin’s words as 'insane stupidity’.