Sedge Lynn Pub in Chorlton Wetherspoon c Greg Willson on Unsplash

Sedge Lynn pub is not closing, but the same cannot be said for 39 Wetherspoons institutions in the UK. Credit: Greg Willson on Unsplash

The Subplot

The Subplot | Wetherspoons’ future, Doncaster airport, Gove in for a brace


  • This week’s takeover is by Jayne Dowle, who looks at the future for Wetherspoons, the love-it-or-loathe-it pub chain once seen on every high street
  • Elevator pitch: Your weekly rundown of what is going up and what is heading the other way


On the house

The pub chain owned by 67-year-old arch-Brexiteer Tim Martin, who famously shared a pint with Boris Johnson and backed both his bid for PM and a No Deal Brexit, has turned its long-held ‘no music, no sound’ policy on its head to show England and Wales World Cup games in most of its hostelries.

Interestingly, this new spirit of tolerance comes only a couple of weeks after the news that seven more Wetherspoons pubs are now marked for closure in coming months.

This takes the total number of recently announced Wetherspoons shutdowns to 39 – in September, punters at 32 pubs were told to expect last orders. These include sites at New Ferry in Wirral (The John Masefield), Halifax in West Yorkshire (The Percy Shaw), and Barnsley in South Yorkshire (The Silkstone Inn), plus 10 in London.

CBRE and Savills are the agents for the sales, a mixture of freehold and leasehold units, being offered individually, in packages or as a portfolio.

Senior director at CBRE Toby Hall says the seven pubs added to the closure list will appeal to buyers: “These additional properties are all substantial, well-located pubs which are fitted to a high standard. Most of the properties are coming to the market for the first time in many years which should give them a broad appeal to both local and national buyers.”

Spirit of the times

If you’re a glass-half-empty sort, you’ll know that pubs have been closing or turning into shops, apartments – and in a twist of history that would have had the North’s doughty Temperance Movement founders foaming at the mouth – religious buildings for years now.

Last March, for instance, Blackburn-based Islamic organisation Dawat-e-Islami was granted permission by Blackburn with Darwen Council planning committee to turn the Little Harwood Inn in Blackburn into a mosque at the second attempt and despite seven objections.

Communities generally don’t like losing a boozer, but needs must over the past 15 years as trade has dwindled. The smoking ban introduced in July 2007, changing social habits, and the pandemic are all putting a squeeze on the pumps.

Until recently, Wetherspoons seemed to be bucking the trend; all those cheap two-for-one fish’n’chips deals and early morning coffee clubs were still pulling in the punters, including pensioners coming in for a warm and a go with the Racing Post.

Wetherspoon is the most-visited licensed brand and the third most-visited brand in the Great British hospitality sector, according to findings by CGA BrandTrack, a syndicated annual consumer survey into the eating and drinking out behaviour of 20,000 nationally-representative British consumers.

More than 20 million customers visited Wetherspoon pubs within an unspecified six-month period, the survey found.

However, as rising energy bills and the cost of living crisis contribute to the closure of 50 pubs a month in England and Wales, the ‘Spoons’ signature mix(er) of cheap grub, real ales, and cocktail jugs is proving no magic elixir.

Bottoms down

Wetherspoons’ latest financial figures add to up to a recent loss to the tune of £30m, with rising staff costs and repairs to all those historic buildings – The Moon Under Water in Deansgate, Manchester opened in 1914 as a cinema – all likely to be contributory factors.

However, Martin blames the situation on cheap supermarket beer, and all those lockdowns imposed by his mate Boris. “During lockdown, dyed-in-the-wool pub-goers, many for the first time, filled their fridges with supermarket beer – and it has proved to be a momentous challenge to persuade them to return to the more salubrious environment of the saloon bar,” he told reporters when preliminary results for the year to August were released.

These sobering figures show that Wetherspoons’ total sales for FY22 were £1.7bn, a decrease of 4.3% compared to the pre-pandemic year. Like-for-like sales, compared to FY19, decreased by 4.7%. Like-for-like beer sales decreased by 6.5% and food sales by 3.2% during this period.

Fancy another?

While customers of the 39 pubs on the hit-list, many in less-than-favoured urban centres in regional towns and cities already kicked in the teeth by retail erosion, will soon be out on the cold – Martin’s looking to the stars.

This week a new Wetherspoons riverside venue was announced next to the O2 Arena in Greenwich, South East London. The company estimates the £3m pub will create up to 70 jobs in the area. But none in Barnsley. Or Halifax. Or Wirral.

Hospitality watchers across the North will be waiting to see if more closed signs appear on Spoons doors in 2023.


Going up, or going down? This week’s movers

Are the Russians trying to help save a regional airport? And Michael Gove gets stuck in, again.

Russian roulette?

The latest bid to resurrect Doncaster Sheffield Airport has skittered off the runway, throwing hopes of rescue for the 800-acre South Yorkshire site promised protection by Liz Truss (who she?) overboard without a parachute yet again.

It’s reported that a bid by a Middle East consortium, led by His Excellency Mahmood Khaleel Al Hashmi, a prominent executive based in the emirate of Ajman in the UAE, has faltered because current owner, Peel Group, says it cannot verify the source of the funding for the proposed deal.

Part of Peel’s concerns are understood to relate to continued relations between companies in Ajman and Russian businesses following the invasion of Ukraine.

A spokesman for the Middle East consortium denied any Russian involvement in the bid, saying: “There is no Russian money.” Peel has so far declined to comment.

Working class hero

Forgive us, as he might say, but Michael Gove’s on a roll, so here he is again in Subplot, two weeks on the trot. Fresh from pulling off the successful party trick of conjuring up a £40m hand-out to the Home Office to fund a new courthouse in Blackpool, thus allowing progress on Nikal’s £300m Blackpool Central leisure scheme, he’s now squaring up to social landlords who allow their tenants to live in squalor.

Just days after the damning verdict on two-year-old Awaab Ishlak, who died from respiratory failure caused by prolonged exposure to mould in his family’s flat in Tweedale Street, Rochdale, managed by Rochdale Boroughwide Housing, the Levelling Up Secretary has written to social housing providers and told them to get their houses in order, sharpish.

The remediation work required is likely to cost. We’re already looking forward to his rumble in the jungle with chancellor Jeremy Hunt.

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The Subplot is brought to you in association with Oppidan Life.

Your Comments

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Wetherspoons still haven`t re-opened the Master Mariner in New Brighton, which overlooks Liverpool Bay, they were carrying out a costly extension and said the works were more complicated than envisaged, they were meant to open in August `22.

By Anonymous

Truss did not promise anything for Doncaster airport .she said “we will do all we can,”


Absolute mentalist if when going for a pint you choose to go to Wetherspoons anyway, good riddance!

By Verticality

Brexit impacts have come home to roost for Spoons. WHat a shame

By Levelling Up Manager

Brexiter Tim Martin devastated because after telling all the foreigners to go home, they actually went home, and now he has no minimuum wage staff to run his pubs.

Right wingers need to learn that their actions have consequences.

By Anonymous

And left wingers don’t ? Oh please don’t turn a property and development board into a rant to try to match your narrative. Not what this site is about.

By Anonymous

Complete sympathy for the staff. Zero sympathy for Tim Martin.

As the kids say these days “Well, well, well. If it isn’t the consequences of my own actions.”.


So @Verticality what is mentalist about getting a pint in Spoons which can be half the price of anywhere else, for £10 you could be horizontal.
For me they have over expanded and need to trim down a lot, I don`t use them much but they have some nice premises eg Edinburgh.

By Anonymous

Au contraire, Anon 11.14, Brexit is very apposite to this discussion. The food and drink sector has been hit more than some. Not that Martin would ever admit it, of course.


@Anonymous it’s precisely what this site is about! So many decisions in the property industry are politically-driven, you cannot ignore that the two are completely related.

By Junior

If anyone deserves a knighthood it is Tim Martin.

By Bob Singleton

Sheffield Doncaster Airport is a tricky one – the councils are so weak there and most of the time arguing amongst themselves. If they had the money do what Manchester did and take the airport back to Public ownership would be ideal. Just like the train networks too, certain infrastructure just cannot be ‘purely’ for shareholders interest.

By Anonymous

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