JD Wetherspoon has warned customers that they will have to increase the price of its meals due to the government’s “Monty Python” VAT rules.

The pub chain has criticised the government for rules that will bolster supermarkets rather than the hospitality sector.

Hot food served in pubs and restaurants typically has a VAT rate of 20%, although this has been reduced to 5% during the pandemic.

Wetherspoons said plans to return VAT levels for hospitality food to previous levels shows “unfairness” compared with retail, where there is largely no VAT.

“The interim rise to VAT of 12%, in September 2021, will result in Wetherspoon having to increase food prices by around 40 pence per meal,” the company said.

“The VAT rise will make the entire hospitality industry less competitive vis a vis powerful supermarkets.

“For many years, UK governments have therefore behaved like Monty Python’s Dennis Moore – who robbed the poor (in this case pubs and restaurants) to help the rich (supermarkets).

“Treating the same product, food, the same way for tax purposes makes economic sense.”

Echo: Boris Johnson shares a pint with Tim Martin. (PA)Boris Johnson shares a pint with Tim Martin. (PA)

The warning comes as Wetherspoons said it expects to see a loss for the current financial year after sales since reopening slipped below pre-pandemic levels.

It said like-for-like sales from May 17, when hospitality venues were able to reopen indoors, to July 4 declined by 14.6% against the same period last year.

The chain told shareholders that this sales decline has accelerated while the Euro 2020 tournament has been on.

Wetherspoons said sales since June 10, when the football tournament started, have fallen by more than a fifth, with the group’s pubs not televising games apart from a limited number of exceptions.

Chairman and founder Tim Martin said: “The company continues to expect to make a loss for the year ending July 25.

“In a trading update of January 19, the company’s principal ‘scenario’ estimated sales in the financial year starting July 26 to be in line with financial year 2019, which remains our current best estimate, on the basis that restrictions are ended, as the Government currently intends.”