British discount pub chain JD Wetherspoon wants to suspend payments to its Irish food and drink suppliers and has paused development of its next outlets in Dublin, Galway and Waterford.
In an email message to suppliers from Wetherspoon’s chairman Tim Martin, the firm says it wants to hold bill payments until its bars are back to business.
“We are asking for a moratorium on payments until the pubs reopen, at which point we intend to clear outstanding payments within a short timeframe,” Mr Martin says.
“We understand that this puts significant pressure on our suppliers, but we are kindly asking for your assistance during this very difficult period. A number of our suppliers have already offered assistance and we would be most grateful for your cooperation as well.”
A spokesman for Mr Martin confirmed that Wetherspoons “has asked its suppliers for a moratorium to help it through this period”.
He said its message, also sent to UK suppliers, says Wetherspoons has done business with many suppliers for 30 to 40 years and the firm “wants to trade with them for another 30-40 years - but needs their help now”.
The spokesman said Wetherspoons is open to discuss “individual cases” with suppliers.
A week ago - before British Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered a UK-wide lockdown on social venues - Mr Martin sparked outrage by arguing that public houses should stay open through the pandemic. He said then that ‘social distancing’ policies within pub premises should be sufficient to reduce risks.
“There's hardly been any transmission of the virus within pubs and I think it's over the top to shut them,” Mr Martin said in a Sky News interview. “That's a commercial view but also a common sense view.'
The Wetherspoons spokesman confirmed today that the company has suspended operations at all seven of its Irish pubs in line with State policy. It also has stopped work on its next four locations in the pipeline on Camden Street and Hanover Quay in Dublin and in Galway and Waterford.
“All development work (is) on hold,” he said.