Thursday 29 September 2022 11:23 AM Locals who meet up in Wetherspoon fear they'll have nowhere to go as chain ... trends now
Punters have shared their fears that those who rely on Wetherspoon pubs for affordable socialising will be devastated when they are sold off by the company as they are seen as a 'lifeline' for some communities.
While not everyone would name a Wetherspoon as their top choice for food and drink, some customers see the affordable pubs as a centre of the community, where they can meet up and socialise without breaking the bank, especially amid the cost of living crisis.
Others have said that they have known patrons to head to their nearest 'Spoons to take advantage of the £1 refillable coffee so they can sit and read the paper all day without having to turn their unaffordable heating on at home.
Angela Johnson said of Halifax's Percy Shaw pub: 'People get a £1 coffee which is refillable and they will just sit and make it last. They can't afford to put the heating on (at home), so they come here and read the newspapers.
'They can stay here all day if they want to.'
Michael Whatmore from Tipton visits the Billiard Hall pub in West Bromwhich, virtually every day and has been a regular for more than 50 years.
He told the Express and Star: 'I used to play billiards in there, a long time ago. I was 18 - I'm 72 now. '
After losing his wife in the pandemic as well as his sister and mother who also recently passed, Mr Whatmore said the pub represents a community centre where there's always a smile.
He added: 'It's a loss for us because we all meet up here, so what are we going to do now?'
The hospitality chain, which operates 800 pubs across the UK, said it has made the 'commercial decision' after previously warning it could face losses of up to £30million.
In a statement, company spokesman Eddie Gershon said: 'On occasion, Wetherspoon does put some of its pubs up for sale. This is a commercial decision.
'We understand that customers and staff will be disappointed with it. The pubs will continue to operate as Wetherspoon outlets until they are sold.'
Scroll down to see the full list of pubs that are going up for sale.
Pictured: Angela Johnson, 62, (pictured with Mike Cook) from Hebden Bridge, is a regular customer at The Percy Shaw in Halifax, which is set to be sold off, and enjoys the food and the odd glass of red wine, which she says is good value for money
As the news broke this week, Wetherspoons customers at The Percy Shaw in Halifax were enjoying cut-price food and drink and a good chat with their friends and the staff.
But the Percy Shaw is among those being dropped by the value pub chain and will no longer be a 'Spoons venue once a sale has been agreed, a fact that the company has already accepted will leave staff and customers disappointed.
Punters in Halifax say the loss of The Percy Shaw will be keenly felt and in ways that some might not realise.
Angela Johnson, 62, from Hebden Bridge, is a regular customer at The Percy Shaw and enjoys the food and the odd glass of red wine, which she says is good value for money.
However, she says the pub is a popular stop-off for users of a nearby gym who enjoy a coffee. And, she says, some less affluent customers spend the best part of their whole day at The Percy Shaw
'People get a £1 coffee which is refillable and they will just sit and make it last. They can't afford to put the heating on (at home), so they come here and read the newspapers. They can stay here all day if they want to.'
Angela described The Percy Shaw as a 'really special place' because it has a community vibe with friendly staff.
Mike Cook, 76, also enjoys meet-ups at the pub at Wetherspoons and says he has been a customer for many years. He worked for many years in the restaurant trade.
Jason Hellowell, 49, of Pye Nest, near Halifax, said he enjoyed visiting The Percy Shaw in the summer because it has a lovely view and is a 'sun trap'.
Tom Hill, 23, said he liked The Percy Shaw but his favourite 'Spoons in Halifax is The Barum Top Inn on Rawson Street.
The Capitol, in Forest Hill, London, is the only listed building to go up for sale out of the 32
As many as four in ten pubs could be closed by this time next year, according to landlords, managers and owners.
Due to the cost of living crisis and without the help many wanted from last week's mini-budget, pessimistic publicans believe they will have called time on their tavern by September 2023.
Only 59 per cent of UK pub managers and owners think they will still be in business in 12 months' time, according to an ongoing bi-monthly survey of 200 pubs by Peckwater Brands.
It also showed those at the sharp end of the hospitality industry are losing faith in Liz Truss and her new cabinet - just 39 per cent now have confidence in the government, largely as a result of Kwarsi Kwarteng's lack of help in his first budget.
Pubs - like bars, restaurants and hotels - are suffering from rampant inflation, lack of staff and high taxes and want to see measures that can help them manage costs without pricing out customers.
Two thirds of pub bosses - 68 per cent - want to see a cut in business rates, the same number want a cut in VAT and and 62 per cent want a change in visa rules to allow more foreign nationals to fill vacancies, particularly seasonal ones during busy periods.
Tom says The Percy Shaw is 'always rammed and busy'. 'I prefer the Barum Top,' he said. 'It feels more pubby and is more of a community. This (The Percy Shaw) feels too much like a bar.'
Customers on social media agreed that if the pubs were taken over by other proprietors, the more affordable option for many friends and families who still want to enjoy socialising in the pub atmosphere despite the cost of living crisis.
Kevin Cummins wrote on Twitter: 'OK so 32 Wetherspoon pubs are being sold off. It might not be your thing but it allows people on low income/benefits to use a neighbourhood pub at a reasonable price.
'With energy prices as they are, it's cheaper for people to spend an afternoon in 'spoons.
'When 'spoons in Balham closed, it reopened as a generic £6.50 a pint pub. The same beer that was £2.50 was now £4 a pint more.
'How is that catering for marginalised people? I don't give a toss about Tim Martin but I care about people without a neighbourhood pub.'
Another added: 'I sometimes walk past the Water House in Durham.
'It always seems to be full, is over the road from the bus station and near taxi ranks so ideally placed for lifts on a night out.'
A third Twitter user added: 'I've been a lonely outlier on Wetherspoons before and I'll do it again.
'It's a lifeline for the poor, elderly people in society who are placeless and employs many in our communities.
'Cheering its downfall as you don't have the same political opinion as its owner tells us all lots about you.'
Meanwhile, Adam Brooks, a publican and social commentator, added: 'My local Wetherspoons is being sold, prime High Road position in an area with very affluent people but also nearby council estates.
'If they are pulling out, imagine how hard the Independents are finding it. It will be a matter of 'use it or lose it' for many local pubs this winter.'
Savills and CBRE will market the 32 properties which contain a combination of 10 freehold and 22 leasehold units.
The portfolio lists all 32 properties with annual rent ranging from £47,500 for the Malthouse in Willenhall to £288,000 for Penderel's Oak in Holborn.
Paul Breen, Director at Savills commented: 'Following the success of our earlier marketing campaigns for JD Wetherspoon we are delighted to be launching these 32 properties to the market.
'These venues are well configured and fitted to a high standard which will make them appealing to a broad range of potential buyers.'
Agents said the sales represented a 'rare opportunity to acquire substantial, landmark public houses with a high standard of fit out in high profile locations'.
Staff are expected to be transferred with the pubs 'upon completion', the agents said, in accordance with regulations.
Other pubs going up for sale include the Rising Sun in Redditch and the Resolution in Middlesborough.
One of the biggest pubs up for sale is the Grade II listed Capitol pub in Forest Hill, south east London.
The building started life as a cinema in the 1920s and remained one until the 1970s when it was transformed into a Bingo Hall until 1996.
Hope & Champion is the only pub not to be situated in a town or city as it is at a service station
Earlier this year, Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin (pictured in January 2016) warned of 'considerable' pressure on costs as staffing and energy bills jumped amid concerns that the pub chain's customers could have to raise prices
Uncertain future: In total, 32 pubs are going up for sale including the Christopher Creeke pub in Bournemouth (pictured)
The building still has the former cinema circle which is now used as managers' officers and storage.
It is the only listed building to be included in the pubs which are going up for sale.
Earlier this year, Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin warned of 'considerable' pressure on costs as staffing and energy bills jumped amid concerns that the pub chain could have to raise prices.
Pub goers saw an increase in prices include a 20p rise for a pint in London.
In the wake of the Chancellor's 'mini budget' earlier this week, Martin then warned the proposed freeze on alcohol duty would not go far enough to help pubs as business chiefs warned hospitality jobs remained 'on a knife edge'.
Responding to the announcement, Mr Martin told MailOnline: 'An alcohol duty freeze is welcome but the real problem for pubs is that pay far higher business rates per pint than supermarkets and, in addition, pubs pay 20 per cent VAT on food sales and supermarkets pay nothing.
'So long as this inequality persists, pubs will decline and supermarkets will thrive.'
These Wetherspoon locations are set to be sold off:
Barnsley – Silkstone Inn
Beaconsfield – Hope & Champion
Bexleyheath – Wrong 'Un
Bournemouth – Christopher Creeke
Cheltenham – Bank House
Durham – Water House
Halifax – Percy Shaw
Hanham – Jolly Sailor
Harrow – Moon on the Hill
Hove – Cliftonville Inn
London Battersea – Asparagus
London East Ham – Miller's Well
London Eltham – Bankers Draft
London Forest Gate – Hudson Bay
London Forest Hill – Capitol
London Hornsey – Toll Gate
London Holborn – Penderel's Oak
London Islington – Angel
London Palmers Green – Alfred Herring
Loughborough – Moon & Bell
Loughton – Last Post
Mansfield – Widow Frost
Middlesbrough – Resolution
Purley – Foxley Hatch
Redditch – Rising Sun
Sevenoaks - Sennockian
Southampton – Admiral Sir Lucius Curtis
Stafford – Butler's Bell
Watford – Colombia Press
West Bromwich – Billiard Hall
Willenhall – Malthouse
Wirral – John Masefield
BY HARRY WISE FOR THIS IS MONEY
Shepherd Neame has bounced back to profit but warned that a full recovery would take 'longer than originally anticipated' due to major inflationary pressures.
Britain's oldest brewer does not expect to reach pre-pandemic levels of profitability until 2024/25, given the impact of surging gas and electricity prices on consumers.
Energy shortages have partly driven costs significantly higher at the Kent-based firm, as have the imposition of higher National Insurance and minimum wage rates and the end of a reduced VAT rate for the hospitality sector in April.
Warning: Britain's oldest brewer does not expect to reach pre-pandemic levels of profitability until 2024/25, given the impact of surging gas and electricity prices on consumers
This did not stop it from rebounding to a £6.3million profit in the year to June, against a £17.8million loss in the previous 12 months, when lockdown restrictions forced pubs to remain shut for much of the time.
Trade was boosted by healthy sales at its tenanted pubs and venues outside the M25, which both saw total income rise just ahead of pre-pandemic volumes and more than double from last year on a like-for-like basis.
Footfall outside London and in seaside areas remained relatively upbeat amidst the growth in remote working and Britons taking domestic holidays.
Demand in the capital was also hurt by rigid cross-border travel rules hampering inbound tourism and the Omicron variant's emergence discouraging people from travelling to their office.