Wetherspoons plans to open pubs ' in or around June'

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Pub chain Wetherspoons has said it hopes to reopen its pubs "in or around" June and is planning on that basis.

Chairman Tim Martin and chief executive John Hutson will be taking 50% pay cuts, while other board members will also slash their salaries.

The pub chain also said it was considering taking out a government-backed loan of up to £50m.

It follows criticism of Mr Martin who said staff could take a job at Tesco after his pubs shut their doors.

In its initial statement to investors on Wednesday, Wetherspoons did not outline how it could reopen in June, given that the government has not yet lifted lockdown restrictions or announced when that is likely to happen.

Wetherspoon said its immediate priority was to manage the business during the lockdown period.

But in a later statement, Mr Martin clarified the company's position on reopening, saying: "We have no insight whatsoever as to when pubs might reopen.

"We've made an assumption, just for planning purposes, that pubs might be allowed to open in late June - but we don't know any more than anyone else."

'Straining at the leash'

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland called for all businesses to work with the government "to have a coordinated approach" to announcements about reopening.

"Mixed messages help nobody," Mr Buckland told BBC Breakfast.

"One of the great success of these last few terrible weeks has been the clarity of the messaging - the public have really understood it [and] embraced it... and I think working together is the way we are going to deal with this crisis."

He added that while businesses were "straining at the leash to get back to what was normal" the UK was "in an unprecedented situation".

The government ordered all bars, pubs and clubs to close in March to help contain the epidemic, leaving Wetherspoons' 850 UK pubs out of action.

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Mr Martin initially cited concerns that there could be some delay to the payment of any wage subsidy for his 43,000 workers until the government's furlough scheme kicked in, which may not have been until the end of April. In the meantime he suggested they should feel free to take jobs at retailers such as Tesco.

However, he later clarified all staff would be paid on time after 95 MPs signed a petition .

Wetherspoons has since furloughed 99% of its workforce through the government's Job Retention Scheme, which will pay 80% of their wages.

On Thursday, Wetherspoons said it had been able to slash overheads, maintenance costs and capital expenditure, as well as deferring rental and tax payments.

However, it is still looking at a bill of about £3m a month during the lockdown to cover employee salary payments and interest on existing loans.

The firm said it was now considering taking out a government-guaranteed loan under the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS).

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