PUBS group JD Wetherspoon will slow the pace of new pub openings in the next year as it grapples with a £50m increase in its annual tax bill.
The chain is on track to open 40 pubs in the year to July 29, but expects this figure to slow to between 20 and 30 new sites in the following financial year.
It renewed its attack on cost pressures from government legislation, including recent rises in excise duty, business rates and carbon tax, and said its total tax bill in the current financial year will be about £500m.
Wetherspoon said it had created about 3,000 jobs in the same period, but all of the economic benefits of its expansion were being levied by the government as taxes, which it called “an unsustainable situation”.
The chain, with about 850 pubs, lifted like-for-like sales in the 13 weeks to April 22 by 2% against a decline of 0.7% in the six weeks to March 4. Cost pressures dented its operating margin, but Wetherspoon said this should improve in the current quarter.