Pub groups are investing millions in improving sites, as drinkers prepare for post-lockdown life

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Pub groups up and down the country are spending millions on improving outside space, extending premises, and investing in new sites as lockdown begins to ease.

© Provided by The i All pubs and restaurants can reopen on 17 May, with some restrictions (Photo: Getty)

Already hospitality businesses have forked out huge sums to ensure venues are Covid secure, and will be continuing to invest so that people return to pints and triple cooked chips with “confidence”.

Wetherspoons, Britain’s fourth largest pub chain, is planning to spend “an initial” £145 million on new pubs and upgrading existing properties.

On Tuesday, the company announced plans to launch 18 new pubs as part of a 75-strong project that will apparently create 2,000 new jobs.

New pubs and extensions will be built in cities such as Leeds, Birmingham, Newport, Sheffield, Felixstowe, Dublin, Carmarthen, and Glasgow.

After the immediate work has been completed, boss Tim Martin said he anticipates a further £750 million will be invested over the coming decade, and plans to open 15 new pubs each year for the next ten.

It will create, he said, as many as 20,000 new jobs, and the work will leave Wetherspoons with more than 1,000 pubs, far more than the 871 in its portfolio currently.

Mr Martin said: “Our immediate  investment will provide work for architects, contractors and builders as well as result in 2,000 new jobs for staff in our pubs.

“We are geared up to start on the first projects within a few months.

“We are also committed to our long-term investment and job creation programme over the next decade. However, the investment is conditional on the UK opening back up again on a long-term basis, with no further lockdowns or the constant changing of rules.”

Elsewhere, the North West-based brewery and pub group JW Lees secured £10m worth of funding to “build back” after the pandemic and eventually acquire new properties.

The managing director William Lees-Jones told the hospitality publication Propel news: “When we reopen, we will be there to wow guests again, build back our existing business and, only when we are trading well and the threat of further lockdowns has gone away, we will be able to get back on the acquisition trail of buying new pubs and hotels as well as investing in improving our existing estate of pubs, inns and hotels.”

Punch Taverns, the Midlands-based operation that has more than 1,300 pubs on its books, said it would be spending £1m on its gardens alone to help its leaseholders “maximise the opportunity” to trade over the summer.

The chain said it would be “transforming hundreds of outdoor spaces” with tent covers, festoon lighting, dining huts, and outdoor heating.

Andy Spencer, Managing Director, said: “We are excited to welcome our customers back in April.

“But it remains vitally important to remember that pubs will be operating at a significantly reduced capacity. We need restrictions to continue to be relaxed during the reopening period to ensure the long-term survival of the great British pub”.

It is understood other big hitters such as Fullers, Greene King, and Young’s are also investing in their properties to reconnect with customers. 

Stonegate, the country’s biggest pub group with more than 4,500 sites nationwide, declined to offer a money figure but confirmed its “publicans have been working behind the scenes” to prepare for the summer.

Emma McClarkin, the chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, told i: “Pubs have invested millions.

“The thousands of pubs unable to open for outdoors service are also investing to make sure customers get the great pub experience they have been craving when they open indoors in May as well.”