Wetherspoon faces ‘momentous challenge’ to persuade punters back after lockdown

Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin pictured in September 2020. Today the pub chain boss said it was facing a 'momentous' challenge getting punters back into boozers post-pandemic

Wetherspoon is facing ‘a momentous challenge’ to persuade pubgoers back into its bars after they got used to drinking cheap supermarket beer during the pandemic, the company’s boss has said.

Tim Martin revealed that while his business had cut losses significantly, it has still not managed to return to a profit since the pandemic, and sales remain lower than in 2019.

‘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 said on Friday.

Total sales rose from £773 million to more than £1.7 billion in the year to the end of July.

Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin pictured in September 2020. Today the pub chain boss said it was facing a ‘momentous’ challenge getting punters back into boozers post-pandemic

JD Wetherspoon revealed last week that 32 of its pubs were facing closure amid the cost of living crisis - as operating costs rise

JD Wetherspoon revealed last week that 32 of its pubs were facing closure amid the cost of living crisis – as operating costs rise

Tim Martin said that customers are opting to stay at home and drink cheap supermarket beer (stock image) instead of going out to their locals

But sales were still behind the more than £1.8 billion the company made in 2019.

The same story could be seen on pre-tax losses, which were cut from £167 million before exceptional items last year, to just £30.4 million this year. Before the pandemic the company made a profit of £132 million.

It opened seven new pubs during the year, and sold, closed or ended the leases on 15 others. In July the business ran 852 pubs across its estate.

‘The company has improved its prospects in a number of ways in recent financial years – we own an increasing percentage of freehold properties; the balance sheet has been strengthened; interest rates have been fixed at low levels until 2031; we have a large contingent of long-serving pub staff and underlying sales are improving,’ Mr Martin said.

But he warned that the business is facing increasing costs.

‘However, as a result of the previously reported increases in labour and repair costs and the potentially adverse effects of rises in interest rates and energy costs on the economy, firm predictions are hard to make,’ he said.

Charlie Huggins, head of equities at investment service Wealth Club, said: ‘2022 was another annus horribilis for Wetherspoon.

‘The recovery from the pandemic has been slower than the group initially expected, meaning sales and profits are a long way short of where they would want them to be. And while the threat of covid is now receding, another has reared its ugly head – inflation.

‘Wetherspoons business model is heavily exposed to the rise in energy and food bills. While it can pass on some of these cost increases, it will be reluctant to push prices too far, for fear of ostracising its customer base.’

He added: ‘Nevertheless, 2023 is shaping up to be yet another challenging year for Wetherspoon’s.

‘Higher interest rates and inflation are strangling the economy, and will lead to significantly higher costs for the group.

‘Combine this with Wetherspoon’s low margins and low price strategy, it could leave investors nursing a hangover.’

It comes as MailOnline revealed that the pub is a lifeline for communities who are fighting to save their locals from being sold off after the company announced 32 were facing the axe across the country.

Petitions have been set up  in a bid to stop the popular pubs changing hands after the company announced the cost-cutting measure earlier this week.

Customers of the pub chain hail the affordable pubs as a centre of the community, where they can meet up and socialise without breaking the bank, especially amid the cost of living crisis.

But in some areas, including Loughborough, locals have set up petitions in a bid to persuade someone to intervene and take the pub off the market. 

‘Save our Spoons!’: Punters who go to Wetherspoon ‘every day’ for £1.99 beer or £3.99 ham and chips fight to save their locals as petitions are started to stop 32 across the country closing 

Exclusive by Katie Feehan

Punters who visit Wetherspoon pubs for its value pints and cheap food are fighting to save their locals from being sold off after the company announced 32 were facing the axe across the country.

Petitions have been set up  in a bid to stop the popular pubs changing hands after the company announced the cost-cutting measure earlier this week.

While not everyone would name a Wetherspoon as their top choice for food and drink, some customers see the affordable pubs as a centre of the community, where they can meet up and socialise without breaking the bank, especially amid the cost of living crisis.

In some areas, including Loughborough, locals have set up petitions in a bid to persuade someone to intervene and take the pub off the market. 

Luke McComb, originally from Richmond in North Yorkshire, lives in Durham and enjoys coming in for breakfast. He said he worries about the older generation who use affordable Wetherspoon pubs as social hubs.

The 29-year-old told MailOnline: ‘I would worry about the older folk in winter as they might become a bit more isolated. Every Wetherspoons in the country has the old boys who sit in the corner with their paper. It gives them somewhere to go and gives them people to talk to.

‘It’s okay for myself but for the older boys, where are they going to go? They might just sit in the house instead. It’s a great pub because you will always get to talk to someone.’

Angela Johnson said of Halifax’s Percy Shaw pub: ‘People get a £1 coffee which is refillable and they will just sit and make it last. They can’t afford to put the heating on (at home), so they come here and read the newspapers. 

‘They can stay here all day if they want to.’

The hospitality chain, which operates 800 pubs across the UK, said it has made the ‘commercial decision’ after previously warning it could face losses of up to £30million.

Michael Whatmore visits the Billiard Hall pub in West Bromwhich, virtually every day and has been a regular for more than 50 years.

After losing his wife in the pandemic as well as his sister and mother who also recently passed, Mr Whatmore said the pub represents a community centre where there’s always a smile.

He added: ‘It’s a loss for us because we all meet up here, so what are we going to do now?’

Scroll down to see the full list of pubs that are going up for sale.

Peter Brand, a regular drinker at The Asparagus, a Wetherspoons pub on Falcon Road in Clapham, that will be sold off

Peter Brand, a regular drinker at The Asparagus, a Wetherspoons pub on Falcon Road in Clapham, that will be sold off

Wetherspoons drinker Jaz

Joseph Kelly

Pictured: Jaz (left) and Joseph Kelly (right) are both regular drinkers at the Asparagus in Clapham which is set to be sold off

Pictured: Angela Johnson, 62, (pictured with Mike Cook) from Hebden Bridge, is a regular customer at The Percy Shaw in Halifax, which is set to be sold off, and enjoys the food and the odd glass of red wine, which she says is good value for money

Pictured: Angela Johnson, 62, (pictured with Mike Cook) from Hebden Bridge, is a regular customer at The Percy Shaw in Halifax, which is set to be sold off, and enjoys the food and the odd glass of red wine, which she says is good value for money

Luke McComb, 29

Derek Stead, 67

Derek Stead, 67, (right) travels an hour from Sunderland three times a week to meet up with friends and family at The Water House, in Durham, while Luke McComb, 29, (left) enjoys the classic ‘Spoons breakfast which he says would pricier elsewhere

Pictured: Enid Hendry, 66, says the Water House in Durham provides an affordable option for people to grab a drink in the city

Pictured: Enid Hendry, 66, says the Water House in Durham provides an affordable option for people to grab a drink in the city

Is YOUR local on the list? Which Wetherspoon pubs are set to be sold off by the company? 

These Wetherspoon locations are set to be sold off: 

Barnsley – Silkstone Inn

Beaconsfield – Hope & Champion

Bexleyheath – Wrong ‘Un

Bournemouth – Christopher Creeke

Cheltenham – Bank House

Durham – Water House

Halifax – Percy Shaw

Hanham – Jolly Sailor

Harrow – Moon on the Hill

Hove – Cliftonville Inn

London Battersea – Asparagus

London East Ham – Miller’s Well

London Eltham – Bankers Draft

London Forest Gate – Hudson Bay

London Forest Hill – Capitol

London Hornsey – Toll Gate

London Holborn – Penderel’s Oak

London Islington – Angel

London Palmers Green – Alfred Herring

Loughborough – Moon & Bell

Loughton – Last Post

Mansfield – Widow Frost

Middlesbrough – Resolution

Purley – Foxley Hatch

Redditch – Rising Sun

Sevenoaks – Sennockian

Southampton – Admiral Sir Lucius Curtis

Stafford – Butler’s Bell

Watford – Colombia Press

West Bromwich – Billiard Hall

Willenhall – Malthouse

Wirral – John Masefield

In a statement, company spokesman Eddie Gershon said: ‘On occasion, Wetherspoon does put some of its pubs up for sale. This is a commercial decision.

‘We understand that customers and staff will be disappointed with it. The pubs will continue to operate as Wetherspoon outlets until they are sold.’ 

As the news broke this week, Wetherspoons customers at The Percy Shaw in Halifax were enjoying cut-price food and drink and a good chat with their friends and the staff.

But the Percy Shaw is among those being dropped by the value pub chain and will no longer be a ‘Spoons venue once a sale has been agreed, a fact that the company has already accepted will leave staff and customers disappointed.

Punters in Halifax say the loss of The Percy Shaw will be keenly felt and in ways that some might not realise.

Angela Johnson, 62, from Hebden Bridge, is a regular customer at The Percy Shaw and enjoys the food and the odd glass of red wine, which she says is good value for money.

However, she says the pub is a popular stop-off for users of a nearby gym who enjoy a coffee. And, she says, some less affluent customers spend the best part of their whole day at The Percy Shaw

‘People get a £1 coffee which is refillable and they will just sit and make it last. They can’t afford to put the heating on (at home), so they come here and read the newspapers. They can stay here all day if they want to.’

Angela described The Percy Shaw as a ‘really special place’ because it has a community vibe with friendly staff.

Mike Cook, 76, also enjoys meet-ups at the pub at Wetherspoons and says he has been a customer for many years. He worked for many years in the restaurant trade.

Jason Hellowell, 49, of Pye Nest, near Halifax, said he enjoyed visiting The Percy Shaw in the summer because it has a lovely view and is a ‘sun trap’.

Tom Hill, 23, said he liked The Percy Shaw but his favourite ‘Spoons in Halifax is The Barum Top Inn on Rawson Street.

Tom says The Percy Shaw is ‘always rammed and busy’. ‘I prefer the Barum Top,’ he said. ‘It feels more pubby and is more of a community. This (The Percy Shaw) feels too much like a bar.’

Devastated punters in Durham said they are facing a lonely winter and described the decision to sell off their local Wetherspoons as ‘absolutely crazy’.

The Water House in Durham city centre has been a popular drinking spot for 20 years – but is set to shut for good following the chains announcement 32 pubs will be sold.

Customers, including the elderly, face having to travel further for a pint to another Wetherspoons in the city or endure loneliness this winter.

Luke McComb, a business owner, added: ‘I didn’t know it was getting shut but it’s absolutely crazy that it is. It has a nice atmosphere, nice food and it’s right in the centre of Durham.

‘I’ve just popped in for a breakfast and the good thing is it’s so cheap. If you go to a cafe, the same breakfast would cost you £15 rather than a fiver. I had a nice chat with an older gent who obviously drinks in there regularly.

‘They go in there, get their drink and their paper and it’s their routine. I have no idea what they’ll do with the building but it’s a shame because it’s really nice.’

The Capitol, in Forest Hill, London, is the only listed building to go up for sale out of the 32

The Capitol, in Forest Hill, London, is the only listed building to go up for sale out of the 32

As many as four in ten pubs will be closed by this time next year 

As many as four in ten pubs could be closed by this time next year, according to landlords, managers and owners.

Due to the cost of living crisis and without the help many wanted from last week’s mini-budget, pessimistic publicans believe they will have called time on their tavern by September 2023.

Only 59 per cent of UK pub managers and owners think they will still be in business in 12 months’ time, according to an ongoing bi-monthly survey of 200 pubs by Peckwater Brands.

It also showed those at the sharp end of the hospitality industry are losing faith in Liz Truss and her new cabinet – just 39 per cent now have confidence in the government, largely as a result of Kwarsi Kwarteng’s lack of help in his first budget.

Pubs – like bars, restaurants and hotels – are suffering from rampant inflation, lack of staff and high taxes and want to see measures that can help them manage costs without pricing out customers.

Two thirds of pub bosses – 68 per cent – want to see a cut in business rates, the same number want a cut in VAT and and 62 per cent want a change in visa rules to allow more foreign nationals to fill vacancies, particularly seasonal ones during busy periods.

Derek Stead travels an hour from Sunderland three times a week to meet up with friends and family at The Water House.

The 67-year-old said: ‘I used to come here every day. I’m gutted about the news.

‘If people still want to go to a Wetherspoons they will have to go to the other one in Durham but that’s going to be very difficult for those who get the bus.

‘I will probably go to the other one but it won’t have the same atmosphere.

‘This is an old man’s pub. There’s a lot of fellows you will see on a morning who won’t necessarily come out in the afternoon.

‘There’s a camaraderie about the place that you don’t get in other pubs. I’ve got a friend who’s 82 and he stops off for a coffee to see us.

‘He only comes down to see us and then he goes home, so I worry for those people. It’s sometimes cheaper to come here for an afternoon than be at home.’

He added: ‘I’ve heard it’s going to be turned into another pub. But it wouldn’t surprise me if it was going to be student accommodation like everywhere else.’

Retired cleaner Enid Henry has been drinking here for years and visits around three times a week with her husband.

The 66-year-old said: ‘I’m upset about the news, it’s not nice. It’s a good pub. It’s a friendly place to come. If this one shuts we will try and find one around the corner but the other Spoons is dearer and it’s too far to walk.

‘It’s a great spot here. I wish they would close the other Spoons and not this one. A lot of people come here for cheap food and drink because it’s more expensive to sit at home.

‘It’s warm inside and it’s a lifeline for people. We never thought it would close so it’s really sad. You can get a pint for £1.79 or a whiskey and lemonade for 99p when it’s on offer.

‘Nowhere else has those sorts of prices especially in a cost-of-living crisis. I wish there was a petition.’

David Hagar, from Ushaw Moor, has been coming to the Water House for as long as he can remember.

The 76-year-old retired railway worker remembers coming to the building when it was a bank to collect his money.

The Water House, in Durham, dates back to the early 1900s, and is among those which are set to be sold off by Wetherspoon

The Water House, in Durham, dates back to the early 1900s, and is among those which are set to be sold off by Wetherspoon

He said: ‘I come here three times a week, sometimes even five and I’m here two hours. I’m disappointed because it means I will have to find somewhere else.

‘It will probably be one of the other pubs on the corner but that will cost me at least 50p more per pint.

‘This pub is a meeting place for about five or six of us so its a real shame if it shuts. Some might just stay in, but it’s double the price to stay at home with the heating on than it is to come here. It will be a real shame.’

Punters at Britain’s smallest pub slammed the decision to put it up for sale.

The Bankers Draft in Eltham, South East London, is also going up for sale and, at 2,354 sq ft, it is considered to be one of the smallest Wetherspoon pubs in the country.

The two storey corner building under a flat roof is also thought to be the oldest Wetherspoons in South East London.

The Banker’s Draft was originally the Bank of Liverpool, founded in 1836, before becoming Martins Bank eventually merging with Barclays in 1968. Wetherspoons opened the pub in 1993 after the branch of Barclays closed down.

Eric Defry, 70, who has lived in New Eltham for 30 years visits the pub to read the newspaper and meet friends said the pub closing was annoying.

He said: ‘It’s very inconvenient. The drinks here are about two quid, it’s the cheapest place around.

‘This is a meeting place, it’s not a typical Wetherspoons, it’s more homely…It’s a proper pub.

‘Who knows where I’ll drink when this place is sold.’

Pictured: David Hagar, from Ushaw Moor, has been coming to the Water House for as long as he can remember

Pictured: David Hagar, from Ushaw Moor, has been coming to the Water House for as long as he can remember

The father-of-two who used to work for Royal Mail said he comes in every day.

He said: ‘I come in everyday after doing my shopping and stay until my money is gone…which is usually around 11am! Today I’m reading the paper but sometimes I meet friends.’

A Dukes of Hazzard-themed J D Wetherspoon? Maybe one day… How US TV show inspired name of pub chain

J D Wetherspoon founder Tim Martin qualified as a barrister in 1979 but took over his local North London pub six weeks before being called to the Bar – and established the pub chain. 

Martin, 64, named the company after his primary school teacher and then added ‘JD’ because it was the nickname for Boss Hogg (Jefferson Davis Hogg) in the American TV series The Dukes Of Hazzard – of which he is presumably a fan.

He now has around 870 Wetherspoon pubs across the UK and Ireland – but the business will take a big hit from the coronavirus lockdown, which he has vehemently opposed.

Martin played a leading role in campaigning for Brexit and as the City’s most outspoken critic of the EU, he donated £224,000 to the Brexit Party. He also donated £50,000 to Boris Johnson’s Election campaign, when the Tories pledged to keep pubs open in neglected towns and villages outside London. 

J D Wetherspoon founder Tim Martin (pictured) qualified as a barrister in 1979 but took over his local North London pub six weeks before being called to the Bar and establishing the pub chain

He named the company after his primary school teacher then added 'JD' because it was the nickname for Boss Hogg (Jefferson Davis Hogg ) in the American TV series The Dukes Of Hazzard. Above, the cast of the show, including, top right in white hat, Sorrell Booke as Boss Hogg)

J D Wetherspoon founder Tim Martin (left) qualified as a barrister in 1979 but took over his local North London pub six weeks before being called to the Bar and establishing the pub chain. He named the company after his primary school teacher – and then added ‘JD’ because it was the nickname for Boss Hogg (Jefferson Davis Hogg ) in the American TV series The Dukes Of Hazzard – of which he is presumably a fan. (Right, the cast of the show, including, top right in white hat, Sorrell Booke as Boss Hogg)

One man, who was sitting at a table staring out the window with his shopping at his knees, said he comes in for one pint two times a week and that the pub closing was very sad.

Charles Greene, 69, a father-of-two and retired delivery worker, has lived in Eltham for 30 years and has been coming to the pub for several years.

Sipping a pint of lager he said the pub had a buzzy atmosphere.

Charles added: ‘It’s really sad, I’ll have to find somewhere else, this place is always buzzing with people to chat to if you want, but often I like to just look out the window and watch the world go by.

‘The prices are so good here, and there is always a place you can sit in peace.

‘It’s a really nice atmosphere, other places are way too expensive, it’s a huge difference.

‘If it stays as a pub it may become very expensive, you just don’t know.

Danny McNally, 67, a retired construction worker, who lives in Eltham, and visits the pub a few times a week to read his newspaper and enjoy a cooked breakfast said he will have to find somewhere else to go.

The father-of-two who has five step children said: ‘I’ll have to find another spot, won’t I.

‘I’ve been coming here for years and I stop by a few times a week to have my breakfast with an espresso.

‘I’ll do my shopping then drink two or three pints and head home.

‘I come in around 11.30am for an hour or so. It’s a great pub, with good prices. It’s a shame it’s going.

‘One guy has been coming here for 29-years, I’m sure he’ll be devastated, I’m surprised he’s not here now.’

Sitting on a bar stool, sipping a half-pint of lemonade, one local woman who has been coming to the Bankers Draft for more than a decade said the pub being sold is very sad.

Sheila Taylor, a 65-year-old retired school meal supervisor and mother-of-five who was born in Eltham said: ‘It’s sad, it’s very sad, but with everything that’s going on it’s understandable.

‘I come in at 9.30am everyday to have a lemonade and meet my friends. I usually spend a few hours in the pub and I’ve been doing that for 10 years.’

John David Miller, 53, who used to work in construction and has lived in Eltham for three years said: ‘I won’t drink anymore because it’s too expensive elsewhere.

‘You pay £3.19 for a pint of lager here, in other places, it’s nearly double that.

The father-of-one who comes in twice a week said he is worried about the staff.

He added: ‘I’m worried about the staff losing their jobs because they are a friendly bunch. I come here two times a week, once on a Tuesday to meet my dad, then again on Saturdays.

‘I’ll stay for a few hours, for three or four drinks. Not many other places around here serve lager, it’s all ale in these other spots.’

Brick restorer Louis Trotter, 23, from Eltham said: ‘It’s the end of an era! It’s a special place and has a great atmosphere. You get a real mix of people – young and old. My friends and I started going to the Banker’s when we were all students because the prices were so reasonable.

‘But my Dad comes in here too – it’s that sort of place.

‘If it’s sold to another company that will change. The prices will just go up.’

Britain’s oldest brewer Shepherd Neame warns rising energy costs will delay its return to pre-pandemic profit levels 

BY HARRY WISE FOR THIS IS MONEY 

Shepherd Neame has bounced back to profit but warned that a full recovery would take ‘longer than originally anticipated’ due to major inflationary pressures.

Britain’s oldest brewer does not expect to reach pre-pandemic levels of profitability until 2024/25, given the impact of surging gas and electricity prices on consumers.

Energy shortages have partly driven costs significantly higher at the Kent-based firm, as have the imposition of higher National Insurance and minimum wage rates and the end of a reduced VAT rate for the hospitality sector in April.

This did not stop it from rebounding to a £6.3million profit in the year to June, against a £17.8million loss in the previous 12 months, when lockdown restrictions forced pubs to remain shut for much of the time.

Trade was boosted by healthy sales at its tenanted pubs and venues outside the M25, which both saw total income rise just ahead of pre-pandemic volumes and more than double from last year on a like-for-like basis.

Footfall outside London and in seaside areas remained relatively upbeat amidst the growth in remote working and Britons taking domestic holidays.

Demand in the capital was also hurt by rigid cross-border travel rules hampering inbound tourism and the Omicron variant’s emergence discouraging people from travelling to their office.

Shepherd Neame revealed retail sales in pubs within the M25 were 30 per cent down on 2019 levels despite rocketing 263 per cent annually.

Its chief executive, Jonathan Neame, said trade at its city centre outlets will take a bit more time to return to pre-Covid levels, while international tourism is not predicted to recover until 2024.

For the upcoming winter, Neame warned that sales would likely soften as consumers’ disposable income is squeezed by higher energy and fuel prices. 

These factors will also lead to the company paying more for goods like glass and carbon dioxide, which is commonly used to prevent beer from going stale.

Yet Neame expressed confidence that the company would be able to ‘deal with these issues as they arise.’ 

He added: ‘Whilst the road to full recovery may take slightly longer than originally anticipated as a result of inflationary pressures, the next few years may also present some great long-term opportunities for the business, and so we look forward to the future with confidence. 

In a widely-criticised ‘mini-Budget’ last week, Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng declared that planned alcohol duty rate hikes would be scrapped, a move that could save drinkers about 7p on a pint of beer.

This came soon after the UK Government announced that energy prices for firms would be capped for six months from the start of October at a potential cost of up to £150billion for the taxpayer. 

Hospitality bosses have broadly welcomed both the measures but still said that further assistance would be needed to tackle costs and ensure the sector thrives over the long term. 

UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls urged the government to lower VAT rates and find an alternative to the business rates regime or risk the loss of thousands of jobs and businesses. 

The Asparagus in Battersea, south London – one of 32 Wetherspoons pubs being sold off – is much more than just a place to get a drink, it is a place where a sense of community has formed.

Joseph Kelly, 72, was one of the first people to set foot in the pub when it opened back in 1998.

Mr Kelly said: ‘I have been here since it first opened. I was the first feet in the door. I have loads of friends here and I have met so many people over the years at this very pub.

‘I will miss coming across here every day. Even when its raining I come over to the pub. I just hope it will still be open for my birthday on the 19th October so I can have a few pints of Guinness.’

Stephen Murphy, 73, is another local resident who can often be found at the pub.

He said: ‘I thought it was a wind-up when I first heard about it. It will really affect us as loads of locals come in here everyday. I come here every day if I can. It’s great because everyone knows everyone, it is a community pub. We are really going to miss it in the winter as well, as it’s so warm and comfortable.’

Mr Murphy said: ‘Anywhere we will go now will cost an arm and a leg.

‘It’s great here as you can have a cheap meal, cheap drink and sit in a nice atmosphere. People need places like this in their communities.

‘We can’t protest, there is no point, they won’t listen to us. I wouldn’t mind if they put another 20 pence on a pint and kept it open.’

Mr Murphy moved down to Battersea around 13 years ago and has been a regular at the pub ever since. Now he will need to find a new local.

He said: ‘There is another Wetherspoons around here, but it hasn’t got the community feel like this one does.’

Jaz, 62, another local, said: ‘I’ve been coming here for years as I live just round the corner. I am gutted that it is closing, it has got so much character and you always get good beer.’

Many at the pub commented on how ‘family friendly’ the local is.

Peter Brand, 55, has been drinking in The Asparagus for 10 years.

He said: ‘I love bringing my kids here, they love it. It’s such a family place. The kids can come and do what they want, its so safe and they know everyone and everyone knows them.

‘Other pubs don’t cater for the local community like this one does. Pubs like this are based on community and that is hard to find.

‘We have built so many friendships in the pub over the years just from coming to the pub.

‘It is going to affect a lot of people.’

Unlike many pubs in London, The Asparagus offers cheap and cheerful food and drink.

Mr Brand added: ‘At pubs down the road it is over £6 a pint. Here I can get my beer for less than £2. I am very sad it’s going.’

The Sir Admiral Lucius Curtis in Southampton, Hants, is named after a senior officer in the Royal Navy in the 19th century and could also soon be serving its last pint.

Call centre worker Sonya Zeiler is one customer concerned about the sale and says if the new owners change the name, it’ll take away from the city’s history.

The 45 year old said: ‘People are really upset. A lot of elderly residents come here every day. Where are they going to go now? They won’t go out as much, they’ll be even more lonely and isolated.

‘It’s a piece of the city’s history. The decor inside has stayed the same for years. Are the new people going to change it? We like it the way it is.

‘It’s a historic building. It’s a part of British history. I’m really sad that they’re taking it away.’

The Sir Admiral’s building was built in 1870 for shipping offices and was once listed as a Grade II building in 1989.

It was converted into a pub shortly after, named the Cork and Bottle, and Wetherspoons acquired it in 2007.

Wetherspoon announced it would 32 of its pubs including the Asparagus in Clapham in a bid to fight against rising costs

Wetherspoon announced it would 32 of its pubs including the Asparagus in Clapham in a bid to fight against rising costs

‘Wetherspoon pubs are cheap and cheerful’ 

Wetherspoon pubs have often been known to offer cheap alcohol and affordable food which has contributed to their popularity over the years.

At the Bankers Draft in Eltham, a pint of Carlsberg cost just £2.29, Guinness are available at £2.99, and you can get a Stowford Press ale for as little as £1.99.

San Miguel and Punk IPA are £3.45, Stella Artois costs £3.35 and Carling is £3.19.

Two cocktail pitchers are sold for £12.95, each contains 100ml of spirits, excluding Pimm’s which has 150ml.

A glass of Chilean wine is priced at £2.10 with 750ml bottles are going for £8.39.

Selected spirits are £1.99 a shot (25ml) with mixers free.

Pimm’s will set you back £4.99 and an Aperol Spritz is £5.99.

You can mix and match a handful of bottled beers, including Corona, Peroni and Budweiser which are £5 for two.

Pub classics such as ham and chips or sausage, chips and beans are priced at £3.99 with a soft drink and £5.29 with an alcoholic drink.

A burger and a drink is available from £5.49 to £6.79.

And a pizza with a drink will cost you anywhere from £4.99 to £8.29 – with a drink.

John Smith, 66, who has been coming to the pub since it opened said he loves the pub.

He said: ‘It’s a lovely little local pub – a community pub – and I’ve been coming here for years.

‘I left the area 10 years ago but still come back to this boozer.

‘I’ve been coming since it opened.

‘It’s very cheap, just like the rest of Wetherspoons.’

The retired gas pipe layer who now lives in Hastings said he’ll stop by the pub for a few hours, now and again, despite not living in the area anymore.

Farrah Garrett, 20, who has lived in Eltham all her life is a full-time carer and was sitting outside the pub..

She said: ‘It’s very sad, it’s been here for as long as I’ve been here. It’s like a small little family, everyone knows everyone, it’ll be a shame to see it go.

‘I’ve been coming since I was 18, so a few years now, but my mum would also bring me when I was a kid.

‘I come in a few times a month to meet with friends and family.

‘It’s very cheap and handy to have a good small pub to enjoy, while not breaking the bank.’

 

Sonya’s daughter, Dominique, 20, works at another pub in the city centre, and said: ‘Another pub chain will probably take the building over, and they’ll probably change it and prices will go up.’

Bob Jones, 71, said he will walk to the next Wetherspoons, which is 15 minutes away, when this one closes because he can’t afford other bars nearby.

‘We’ll go to the Standing Order. We’ll walk all the way to another Wetherspoons when this one closes,’ he said.

‘It’s a lovely, working-class pub. Locals haven’t got the money for the other pubs around here. It’ll impact the working class people the most.’

Matt Ray, 47, visits the Sir Admiral Lucius Curtis every weekday and is worried about prices rising if a different company takes over the building.

He said: ‘Tell Wetherspoons not to close it. I come here every weekday. It’ll have a big impact on the locals around here. It’s great value for money. If it’s changed to a different pub, the prices will change.’

Tim Smith, 56, has been drinking at the Sir Admiral for the past two years.

He said: ‘They’ll replace it with a coffee shop or a student pub, and there’s too much of that. What they’ll do, it won’t be for the local people. It won’t be for us. I’m really upset.’

Joan Smith, 50, is another concerned for the nearby elderly residents, saying: ‘People need to socialise. The older people are here every day to get out of the house, to talk to people.

‘It’s a working-class place, somewhere affordable. The white-collar, upper-class people don’t care if it goes, but we do.’

Sanjela Asohoka, 19, is a student at Solent University and lives around the corner from the Wetherspoons.

She said: ‘It’s cheap here and has got a good variety of food. It’s a great place to go, and you can just stay here chatting all day.

‘It’s such a cosy place to come together with friends. It’s an easy decision to come here when you don’t know where to go. For students especially, we don’t have a lot of money. Spoons is the place to go.’

Customers on social media agreed that if the pubs were taken over by other proprietors, the more affordable option for many friends and families who still want to enjoy socialising in the pub atmosphere despite the cost of living crisis.

Kevin Cummins wrote on Twitter: ‘OK so 32 Wetherspoon pubs are being sold off. It might not be your thing but it allows people on low income/benefits to use a neighbourhood pub at a reasonable price.

‘With energy prices as they are, it’s cheaper for people to spend an afternoon in ‘spoons.

‘When ‘spoons in Balham closed, it reopened as a generic £6.50 a pint pub. The same beer that was £2.50 was now £4 a pint more.

‘How is that catering for marginalised people? I don’t give a toss about Tim Martin but I care about people without a neighbourhood pub.’

Another added: ‘I sometimes walk past the Water House in Durham. It always seems to be full, is over the road from the bus station and near taxi ranks so ideally placed for lifts on a night out.’

A third Twitter user added: ‘I’ve been a lonely outlier on Wetherspoons before and I’ll do it again.

‘It’s a lifeline for the poor, elderly people in society who are placeless and employs many in our communities. Cheering its downfall as you don’t have the same political opinion as its owner tells us all lots about you.’

Meanwhile, Adam Brooks, a publican and social commentator, added: ‘My local Wetherspoons is being sold, prime High Road position in an area with very affluent people but also nearby council estates.

‘If they are pulling out, imagine how hard the Independents are finding it. It will be a matter of ‘use it or lose it’ for many local pubs this winter.’ 

Savills and CBRE will market the 32 properties which contain a combination of 10 freehold and 22 leasehold units.

The portfolio lists all 32 properties with annual rent ranging from £47,500 for the Malthouse in Willenhall to £288,000 for Penderel’s Oak in Holborn. 

Paul Breen, Director at Savills commented: ‘Following the success of our earlier marketing campaigns for JD Wetherspoon we are delighted to be launching these 32 properties to the market.

‘These venues are well configured and fitted to a high standard which will make them appealing to a broad range of potential buyers.’

Agents said the sales represented a ‘rare opportunity to acquire substantial, landmark public houses with a high standard of fit out in high profile locations’.

Staff are expected to be transferred with the pubs ‘upon completion’, the agents said, in accordance with regulations. 

Other pubs going up for sale include the Rising Sun in Redditch and the Resolution in Middlesborough.

One of the biggest pubs up for sale is the Grade II listed Capitol pub in Forest Hill, south east London.

The building started life as a cinema in the 1920s and remained one until the 1970s when it was transformed into a Bingo Hall until 1996.

Hope & Champion is the only pub not to be situated in a town or city as it is at a service station

Hope & Champion is the only pub not to be situated in a town or city as it is at a service station

Earlier this year, Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin (pictured in January 2016) warned of 'considerable' pressure on costs as staffing and energy bills jumped amid concerns that the pub chain's customers could have to raise prices

Earlier this year, Wetherspoon’s boss Tim Martin (pictured in January 2016) warned of ‘considerable’ pressure on costs as staffing and energy bills jumped amid concerns that the pub chain’s customers could have to raise prices 

Uncertain future: In total, 32 pubs are going up for sale including the Christopher Creeke pub in Bournemouth (pictured)

Uncertain future: In total, 32 pubs are going up for sale including the Christopher Creeke pub in Bournemouth (pictured)

The building still has the former cinema circle which is now used as managers’ officers and storage.

It is the only listed building to be included in the pubs which are going up for sale. 

Earlier this year, Wetherspoon’s boss Tim Martin warned of ‘considerable’ pressure on costs as staffing and energy bills jumped amid concerns that the pub chain could have to raise prices.

Pub goers saw an increase in prices include a 20p rise for a pint in London. 

In the wake of the Chancellor’s ‘mini budget’ earlier this week, Martin then warned the proposed freeze on alcohol duty would not go far enough to help pubs as business chiefs warned hospitality jobs remained ‘on a knife edge’.

Responding to the announcement, Mr Martin told MailOnline: ‘An alcohol duty freeze is welcome but the real problem for pubs is that pay far higher business rates per pint than supermarkets and, in addition, pubs pay 20 per cent VAT on food sales and supermarkets pay nothing. 

‘So long as this inequality persists, pubs will decline and supermarkets will thrive.’

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