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Pub chain JD Wetherspoon plans to open 18 new pubs and create 2,000 new jobs in a £145m upgrade – but only if there are no more Covid restrictions. The company said it would also “significantly extend” 57 existing pubs as part of the project.

It “will provide work for architects, contractors and builders as well as result in 2,000 new jobs for staff in our pubs,” said boss Tim Martin. But he warned the project would not go ahead if there are further lockdowns.

The company already has 871 pubs and new ones are planned in locations including Leeds, Birmingham, Newport Pagnell, Heswall, Sheffield, Felixstowe, Dublin, Haverfordwest, Carmarthen and Glasgow.

Once the upgrade has been completed, Wetherspoon said it planned to spend another £750m to open 15 new pubs and enlarge 50 existing pubs each year for 10 years. The ambitious 10-year project would result in 20,000 new jobs, it said.

Wetherspoon said it was keen to start the development project within weeks of its pubs reopening fully. “We are geared up to start on the first projects within a few months,” said Mr Martin.

“However, the investment is conditional on the UK opening back up again on a long-term basis, with no further lockdowns or the constant changing of rules.”

Mr Martin has been a consistently outspoken critic of the government’s changing lockdown rules. When Wetherspoon published its interim results earlier this month he accused the government and SAGE of being “unscientific in their approach – ignoring evidence, which contradicts their ‘narrative'”.

“Rather than embracing, debating and investigating anomalies and counterintuitive information, as real scientists do, they have, instead tried to discredit dissenters,” he said.

“These tactics can work in an election campaign, but risk disaster in the day-to-day management of problems.”

He blasted “examples of entirely unscientific initiatives” such as the introduction of a curfew, the requirement for a “substantial meal” with a drink and the wearing of face masks to visit the bathroom.

“This approach has contributed to the UK having one of the biggest hits to the economy of any country, and the worst health outcomes of any large country,” Mr Martin said.

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