British pub group JD Wetherspoon is considering opening bars in Irish airport terminals as part of its long-term expansion plans for here.
Speaking to the, group chairman Tim Martin said lockdowns are not working as a Covid-19 defence measure and that all pubs should remain open as long as they adhere to strict social-distancing measures.
“There’s no reason why not. It’s the sort of thing we’d like to do,” Mr Martin said about the prospect of opening in Irish airports.
“In the long-term, [we’d look at] any busy area within the Republic, including airports."
Such plans are likely to be for the longer term.
Wetherspoon said it may have to cut 400-450 jobs at its airport bars in the UK due to a drop in trade from the fall in airport passenger numbers. The group employs 1,000 people across bars in Gatwick, Heathrow, Stansted, Birmingham, Edinburgh, and Glasgow airports.
Last month, the group, which has around 900 pubs across the UK and Ireland, warned it is likely to make a loss for its latest financial year due to the effect of the pandemic.
Wetherspoon has seven pubs in Ireland, a small number in various stages of development, and a long-term plan to have around 30 operating here.
The group has two big Dublin openings planned for this year, but Mr Martin said it wouldn’t be profitable to develop new sites from scratch under the current restrictions.
However, he did reiterate the group’s expansion plans for Ireland, adding that there remains scope for more pubs in Cork, where Wetherspoon has one premises.
As restrictions tighten across Ireland and Britain, Mr Martin warned against full lockdowns, saying they don’t help and that the only net result is “economic chaos” with pubs going out of business and governments losing out on valuable tax revenues.
He urged debate over the effectiveness of lockdowns in the Dáil as well as in the UK parliament.
He said there have been no high levels of virus transmission in pubs in the UK, with Wetherspoon only seeing one case across its 860 or so pubs in Britain.
Currently all of its pubs in Ireland are trading under the latest local restriction rules.