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Pub giant JD Weatherspoon is set to create 2,000 new jobs with the opening of new outlets as part of a huge ten-year expansion project.
On Tuesday, the chain announced its multi-million-pound investment plans, which will be a massive boost to the struggling hospitality industry.
The project will kick off with the opening of 18 new pubs and almost 60 refurbishments at existing premises, costing around £145 million and creating 2,000 new jobs.
But over the next decade, the company plans to continue expanding, investing a further £750 million to open and revamp hundreds of other premises.
The whole project is expected to create a total of 22,000 new jobs over the next decade – a welcome lifeline for the hospitality industry, which has lost a staggering £200m per day during Covid 19 restrictions.
Wetherspoon, which has 871 pubs, made the announcement just days ahead of the industry beginning to reopen again.
Pubs and restaurants will be allowed to start serving outdoors from April 12, when lockdown restrictions begin to ease, and indoors from May.
JD Weatherspoon founder and chairman Tim Martin said the company was "committed to our long-term investment and job creation programme over the next decade".
But he added that the investment was "conditional on the UK opening back up again on a long-term basis, with no further lockdowns or the constant changing of rules".
Wetherspoons is due to begin working on its expansion project "within weeks" of reopening fully.
A total of 57 existing pubs will be upgraded, with 18 new ones opening in towns and cities including Sheffield, Leeds, Birmingham, Heswall, Dublin, Felixstowe, Haverfordwest, Glasgow, and Carmarthen.
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The ambitious project will involve an initial investment of £145 million by the company, creating the first round of 2,000 new jobs with 18 new sites. There will also be "significant extensions and upgrades" made to 57 current pubs.
Once these are completed, Wetherspoon anticipates investing £750 million more to open 15 new pubs each year for 10 years, and refurbish and enlarge 50 existing pubs. This will result in a further 20,000 new jobs.
Mr Martin said: "Our immediate investment will provide work for architects, contractors and builders as well as result in 2,000 new jobs for staff in our pubs.
"We are geared up to start on the first projects within a few months."
The pub giant will reopen 394 of its pubs on April 12. Just under half of its outlets will have to remain shut however because they do not have outdoor areas.
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Wetherspoon chief executive John Hutson said: "We are looking forward to welcoming our customers and staff back to our pubs."
But Tim Martin warned that the introduction of vaccine passports being proposed by the Government would be "the last straw" for struggling pubs and force bar staff into a "bitter civil liberties war with customers".
Ministers have been looking into the possibility of introducing coronavirus health certificates once lockdown is lifted, which could see access to venues granted only if customers have been vaccinated, received negative tests, or developed antibodies through past infection.
But, writing in the Telegraph, Mr Martin said there was "no justification for a passport system".
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