Wetherspoons has warned of a profits hit as tightening COVID restrictions and calls for even tougher measures “affect customer sentiment and trade”.
The pub chain said its six-month results “may be loss-making or marginally profitable” as Britain appeared to be heading for “lockdown by stealth”.
Wetherspoons had already warned last month that some cautious older drinkers were staying away from its pubs, resulting in sales of ales and stouts slumping.
Since then, the introduction of Plan B rules to tackle the spread of the Omicron variant, including working from home guidance, have created a further headache for the business together with the wider hospitality sector, it said.
“The uncertainty, and the introduction of radical changes of direction by the government, make predictions for sales and profits hazardous,” Wetherspoons said.
“The factors mentioned above will affect our first half results, in particular, which may be loss-making or marginally profitable.”
Wetherspoons chairman Tim Martin said there had been no outbreaks, as defined by the health authorities, of COVID-19 among customers in Wetherspoon pubs.
Mr Martin added: “The typical British pub, contrary to received opinion in academia, is usually a bastion of social distancing.
“In spite of reports of labour shortages and supply difficulties, Wetherspoon pubs, with few exceptions, are fully stocked and fully staffed.
“However, the repeated warnings and calls for restrictions, mainly from SAGE members and academics, combined with arbitrary changes of direction from the government, invariably at short notice, affect customer sentiment and trade.
“In effect, the country appears to be heading towards a lockdown by stealth.”
Shares in Wetherspoons, already off by more than a quarter in the year to date, fell by a further 5%.
The announcement last week of new Plan B rules has already prompted calls for further help from the government for businesses amid fears it would be mean Christmas being cancelled for city centre shops and pubs.