Wetherspoon founder Tim Martin today branded the Rule of Six as ‘byzantine’ and ‘complicated’ as he likened the government’s chaotic ever-changing restrictions to a ‘speedboat in a competition’.
The pub chain’s chief executive, 65, said the UK’s policies needed to be more like an ocean liner, with only tiny alterations to their course during the pandemic.
He spoke after there had been 66 workers across 50 of the firm’s pubs who had tested positive for coronavirus.
Mr Martin, worth an estimated £322million, said: ‘I think one of the problems is that the rules have become byzantine and complicated.
‘I think that the UK and the coronavirus problem needs to be like the Queen Mary crossing the Atlantic – just the odd touch at the tiller.
‘What we are getting is different rules all the time, it’s like a speedboat in a competition. We are changing all the time and I don’t think anyone really understands the rules anymore.’
Drinkers crowd outside the Paramount Wetherspoons in Manchester on Saturday night
He added to Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I think it’s a slightly chaotic rule myself – apologies to the government, but it just doesn’t seem to me to make a lot of sense.
’94 per cent of our pubs have had no coronavirus cases whatsoever and only one per cent has had more than one case.’
He added the assumption that pubs were the centre of transmissions was wrong and they were safe.
Two pubs had up to four employees infected and six have confirmed two while the remaining 40 have reported just one worker testing positive for Covid-19.
JD Wetherspoon, which employs 43,000 people across its 861 pubs said that the vast majority of its establishments have recorded no positive cases.
The company hasn’t revealed which pubs have been affected.
Last month, three staff at the North and South Wales Bank in Wrexham, North Wales, tested positive but it remained open.
Wetherspoons boss Tim Martin (pictured) recently shot down claims made by a disease expert that pubs are ‘dangerous places to be’ during the pandemic
The firm said most of the reported cases have been mild or asymptomatic and 28 of the 66 employees have already returned to work, after self-isolating in accordance with medical guidelines.
It follows a rise in new coronavirus cases, with a further 3,330 positive cases recorded in the UK on Sunday.
A whopping 32million Brits have crammed into Wetherspoons pubs since they reopened on July 4.
Pubs don’t have to close after finding a positive test result unless they are made to do so by local health protection officials.
Mr Martin recently shot down claims made by a disease expert that pubs are ‘dangerous places to be’ during the pandemic.
He blasted: ‘The situation with regard to pubs has been widely misunderstood.
‘It is clearly not the case that pubs are ”dangerous places to be”.’
Mr Martin also claims the chain has invested £15million into safeguarding its pubs and implementing measures such as screens between tables and reducing capacity.
It comes as the pub giant revealed that trading was ‘very quiet’ over the weekend, before the Government’s tightened restrictions on social gatherings came into action this morning.
Mr Martin shrugged off claims that larger groups might rush to the pub before the implementation of the new ‘rule of six’.
Mr Martin also claims the chain has invested £15million into safeguarding its pubs and implementing measures such as screens between tables and reducing capacity
The new rule means people could face fines of up to £3,200 if they are involved in social gatherings of more than six people.
Mr Martin said: ‘Trade was very quiet over the weekend, as the public weighed up the evidence about the alleged dangers of going out – Wetherspoon sales were 22.5 per cent below the equivalent Saturday last year.’
Trade groups, including the British Beer & Pub Association, said the new rule will halt the recovery of hospitality firms without extended financial support for the sector.
Mr Martin told investors on Monday that he believes the safety of pubs during the pandemic has been ‘widely misunderstood’.
Wetherspoon pubs have made many changes to their normal service and way of running things
Last month, the group said like-for-like bar and food sales were down 16.9 per cent for the 44 days to August 16, compared with the same period last year.
Mr Martin said the sales slump means it expects to post a loss for the year to July 26.
The news comes as the ‘rule of six’ law came into force today – with public gatherings now limited to just six people indoors and out.
Home Secretary Priti Patel today warned Brits will get criminal records if they break the rules.
Home Office officials have said that anyone who refuses to pay the initial £100 on-the-spot fine will be arrested and taken to court.
Pubs, bars and restaurants must also take the details of punters or risk £1,000 fines.