JD Wetherspoon has reported a 17% decline in like-for-like food and bar sales since it reopened most of its estate on 4 July.
The pub giant said sales had gradually improved over the 44 days to 16 August, helped by the government's Eat Out to Help Out scheme and the addition of extra outside seating. However, it anticipates a decline when the promotion ends at the end of the month.
Wetherspoon has opened 844 of its 873-strong estate, with the majority of sites in travel hubs and airports remaining closed. Since the beginning of July the group has also opened two new pubs, one in Leeds and one in the West Midlands.
Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin has confirmed that the group anticipates recording a loss for the year to 26 July, both before and after exceptional items, and called for another lockdown to be avoided.
He said: "I believe, on the balance of the arguments, that avoiding full lockdowns and adopting the Swedish approach, is the better solution.
"Wetherspoon had five positive tests for Covid-19 among its 43,000 staff before lockdown and has had 24 positive tests since pubs reopened on 4 July. Since reopening, the amount of testing has substantially increased.
"Other environments seem to have higher levels of infection. For example, one sandwich-making facility in Northampton had 287 positive tests among its workforce, and one farm in Hereford had 77 cases.
"Some experts, such as professor Hugh Pennington of Aberdeen University, believe that pubs are major centres of infection, but they have provided no evidence – in fact, our experience suggests otherwise.
"If Professor Pennington has evidence he should publish it, so that it can be peer-reviewed, as is standard practice among scientists.
"Risk cannot be eliminated completely in pubs, but sensible social distancing and hygiene policies, combined with continued assistance and co-operation from the authorities, should minimise it".