WETHERSPOONS will hike the price of food across all of its pubs after lockdown ends.
The chain announced today that punters' bills will go up by an average of 40p per meal later this year when VAT rate cuts come to an end.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak dropped VAT to 5% for hospitality businesses last year due to the Covid crisis.
He announced in this year's budget that slashed rates would be extended over the summer.
But this help will come to an end in September – meaning that 'Spoons will be raising menu prices to plug the gap.
The chain announced the price hikes in its latest financial update, and revealed its food and bar sales were down 49% between April 12 and May 16 when it could only serve Brits outdoors.
This narrowed to 14.6% between May 17 to July 4, when pubs were allowed to fully reopen.
Wetherspoons said: " The chancellor reduced VAT on food for the hospitality industry to 5% last year, still above the rate paid by supermarkets, which was nonetheless welcome.
"However, it is now proposed that VAT returns to 20%, in stages, in the next year.
"The interim rise to VAT of 12.5%, in September 2021, will result in Wetherspoon having to increase food prices by around 40 pence per meal."
It comes as Britain's boozers are battling to claw back cash that was lost over Covid lockdowns.
Experts estimate that six pubs vanished for good every week since the start of the first national lockdown.
And when restrictions eased earlier this year and pubs could finally reopen, boozers have struggled to boost sales due to social distancing measures preventing them from filling up their bars.
Further sales have been lost by pubs including Wetherspoons who have been forced to close venues because of staff shortages.
Businesses have had to shut at short notice because workers have been toldto self-isolate by the NHS app – leaving them too short-staffed to open.
But in welcome news to boozers, Covid rules in venues can be ditched from July 19.
Punters and workers don't have to wear masks, people can be served at the bar and you won't have to check in by scanning a QR code using the Test and Trace app.
Every pub-goer currently has to check in with the NHS Covid app to get a pint.
This also means that pub-goers will be told to book a test immediately if they sit near Covid drinker in a pub.
Social distancing remains in place in pubs, bars and restaurants with signage in place to remind customers.
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