Pub Boss Decries ‘Faff,’ Invokes Buffett in Covid Broadside

Britain’s most outspoken pub boss invoked the likes of Isaac Newton and Warren Buffett in a wide-ranging diatribe against the government’s Covid-19 policies, including new restrictions on U.K. watering holes.

JD Wetherspoon Plc Chairman Tim Martin cited a decades-old warning from the sage of Omaha to be wary of companies where employees blindly follow “the institutional imperative,” without questioning the course they’re on. In a 1990 letter to shareholders, Buffett compared this to Newton’sfirst law of motion.

This is exactly what has happened in the U.K., where the authorities justified lockdowns and pub restrictions on the basis of flawed pandemic modeling, the pub chief said as the companyreported its first annual loss since fiscal 1984. The stock fell as much as 7.9%.

After reopening bars and restaurants in spring, the U.K. introduced new restrictions after a resurgence of infections that began late this summer. These include a 10 p.m. closing time nationwide, localized shutdowns, a ban on bellying up to the bar and a requirement to wear masks on the way to the bathroom. This week the government imposed a prohibition on indoor mingling among members of different households in London.

“The recent curfew and introduction of table service only have been particularly damaging for trade, depressing sales for customers who find it too much ‘faff,’ at the same time as substantially increasing costs,” said Martin, known for previous broadsides on matters such as Brexit.

Revenue fell 15% on a comparable basis in the first 11 weeks of the latest financial year, which began in August. The company abandoned a dividend payment this year.

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