JD Wetherspoon has sunk to a loss of £105.4 million after sales took a £556 million hit from the Covid-19 crisis.

The company said it saw an increase in business in the weeks following the easing of lockdown but the new restrictions and 10pm curfew have seen this fall back.

One-off costs due to Covid-19 hit £29 million, including £5.9 million in drinks and food that had to be thrown away, £6.2 million on PPE, screens and other equipment to make pubs Covid- secure, and £17.1 million on staff costs.

However, the company benefited from a £15.9 million payout from HMRC over a long-term gaming machine dispute.

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The loss is the first time founder and chairman Tim Martin's chain has sunk into the red since 1984 but the company remains confident that it can continue to trade.

No details were provided on potential or recent job losses but two pubs were opened and nine were sold or closed.

In terms of sales, Wetherspoon revealed that sales in the year to July 26 fell from £1.82 billion to £1.26 billion, with a loss of £105.4 million. In 2019, under slightly different accounting rules, the company made a pre-tax profit of £95.4 million.

In the 11 weeks since, sales have been 15% below those of last year, with strong sales in the first few weeks, followed by a marked slowdown since the introduction of a curfew and other regulations.

The company added that approximately 46 million customers have visited Wetherspoon pubs since July 4.

Mr Martin said table service has been particularly costly to the chain and renewed calls on the Government to change regulations which continue to favour supermarkets.

He said: "It makes no sense for supermarkets to be treated more leniently than pubs, since pubs generate far more jobs per pint or meal than do supermarkets, as well as far higher levels of tax.

"Pubs also make an important contribution to the social life of many communities and have better visibility and control of those who consume alcoholic drinks."

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