JD Wetherspoon puts €12m cost on preparing pubs for the new normal

The Linen Weaver on Paul Street, Cork which opened in 2015. Picture: Eddie O
The Linen Weaver on Paul Street, Cork which opened in 2015. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

British pub group JD Wetherspoon has spelled out in detail what the typical “new normal” bar experience for its customers will be like when pubs reopen – and has costed the necessary retrofit of its UK and Irish pubs at an initial £11m (€12.2m).

The group – which owns nearly 900 pubs across the UK and Ireland – has not said when it plans to reopen, only so much as when it gets the official green light from both governments. This is despite the UK looking to reopen its pubs in July and August 10 being set as the tentative reopening date for pubs in Ireland.

Earlier this month, Wetherspoon said it has no intention of rowing back on ambitious expansion plans for Ireland – where it currently has either a live presence or development plans in Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Galway and Carlow, and has seven pubs in operation.

While it doesn’t see it being the end of the pub as we know it, reopenings will see the birth of a new pub experience.

All Wetherspoon pubs will have screens at the cash tills and screens will be in place to ensure social distancing is respected at seating areas.

Wetherspoon will also provide gloves, masks and protective eyewear to employees, who can elect to wear them or not subject to government guidelines in both countries.

Every employee will also be required to complete and sign a daily health assessment questionnaire to confirm they are fit to work. This will include having their temperature taken using a digital thermometer.

There will be separate entry and exit points to the pubs where possible. An average of ten hand sanitiser dispensers will be dotted around each pub and staff will monitor the bar at all times in order to maintain social distancing among customers.

Food condiments will come in sachets instead of usual bottles, customers will be encouraged to use Wetherspoon’s order and pay app and staff can only handle customer drinks by the base of the glass.

Wetherspoon was conspicuous by its absence, earlier this week, when a number of major UK pub chains called on the British government to halve the social distancing rule to one metre when pubs reopen to allow for more customers and make it more commercially viable to reopen premises.

“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,” said Wetherspoon chief executive John Hutson.

We have received more than 2,500 suggestions from our staff. The safety of our staff and customers is paramount.

Mr Hutson said while the UK government has not confirmed any reopening date for pubs it is important for the group to be prepared for any announcement.

He said all Wetherspoon staff will receive a full briefing and training on the new way of running the pubs. A spokesperson said all plans include its Irish-based pubs also.