JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin has called on the government to open pubs at the same time as non-essential shops reopen, stating that the industry is “on its knees”.

Martin said that pubs across the UK needed to reopen in order to protect the future of the sector and its associated jobs. He said the industry makes “a massive contribution” to the economy in the form of taxes paid.

“In the financial year to July 2019, before the pandemic, Wetherspoon, its customers and employees generated £764 million of taxes,” he said.

“The amount of tax paid by Wetherspoon is replicated, according to the size of the company, throughout the pub industry, and shows just how important pubs are to the economy.”

He said that while lockdown restrictions have been a disaster for the hospitality, retail, arts and entertainment industries, “our calculations show that they have been an even bigger disaster for public finances”.

“Since pubs reopened last summer, following the first lockdown, Wetherspoon has registered more than 50 million customer visits to its pubs, using the test and trace system, without a single outbreak of Covid-19, as defined by the health authorities, among customers in our pubs,” he added.

“Industry organisations UK Hospitality and the BBPA have provided the government with information that clearly demonstrates that pubs and restaurants are Covid- secure environments, following the investment of hundreds of millions of pounds in safety and hygiene measures.

“Surely it is possible for the hospitality industry to reopen at the same time as non-essential shops, now that a vaccine exists, on the basis of the social distancing and hygiene regulations, which were agreed with the health authorities, after full consultation, for the July 4 reopening last year.”