Major U-turn on lockdown rules for England’s pubs and restaurants

Pubs, bars and restaurants will be permitted to sell takeaway alcohol during England’s second national lockdown if it is pre-ordered online, or via phone or post, according to proposed regulations.

If backed by MPs, the rules says that customers will be able to collect pre-ordered drinks as long as they do not enter a premises.

Details of regulations drafted to cover England’s expected second lockdown were released on Tuesday evening and will be voted on in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

Previously released official guidelines said that although restaurants, bars and pubs will have to close from Thursday, food takeaway and delivery services are still permitted – but serving alcohol to take away was not.

However, exceptions to restrictions on the service of food and drink are outlined in the newly published proposed regulations.

These say that a restricted business can only sell alcohol for off-premises consumption by “making deliveries in response to orders received” through a website or other on-line communication, by telephone, including text message, or by post.

The regulations also explain that pre-ordered drinks can be sold to, and collected by, a customer “provided the purchaser does not enter inside the premises to do so”.

A customer can also collect pre-orders in a vehicle as long as it is passed over “without the purchaser or any other person leaving the vehicle”.

Elsewhere in the regulations, breweries are listed as being included among “Off-licences and licensed shops selling alcohol” permitted to stay open during lockdown.

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Pub owners and campaigners had previously urged the Government to reverse the “baffling” and “nonsensical” decision to restrict the sale of takeaway alcohol during a second national lockdown.

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said: “We recognise that these are extremely challenging circumstances for pubs and the hospitality industry.

“Public health and safety remains our number one priority and that is why pubs and other hospitality venues cannot serve alcohol on site to take away to prevent people from gathering outside their premises.

“However, they can sell alcohol as part of delivery services, including through click and collect, over the telephone and by other remote methods of ordering for collection, provided customers do not congregate as groups once they have picked up their order.”

Under new lockdown rules people will only be able to visit outdoor public places with the people they live with, their support bubble, or one person from another household in parks, beaches, countryside, public gardens, allotments and playgrounds.

Responding to the publication of the regulations on Tuesday, Nik Antona, chairman of the The Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) said: “I am delighted that the Government has listened to the concerns of thousands of Camra members, concerned pub-goers, and beer lovers who have emailed their MPs in the last 48 hours urging the Government to allow pubs and breweries to sell alcohol as takeaway during the second lockdown.

“This is a vital lifeline for local pubs and breweries across England over the coming four weeks, giving them a lifeline of income and allowing people to support local businesses.

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“Camra continues to call on the Government to bring in a comprehensive, long-term financial support package to support all pubs and breweries through the lockdown and the tough months that will follow this winter.

“Without a sector-specific support package, we risk seeing thousands of pubs and breweries closing their doors for good.”

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), said: “Takeaway alcohol from pubs if it is pre-ordered and customers don’t enter the premises is movement, but still not anywhere near enough.

“Supermarkets and off-licences can still sell alcohol so this is grossly unfair on pubs with off-licences.

“It remains the case that to help pubs and brewers survive, and to stop up to 7.5 million pints from being wasted, the Government needs to give pubs the same ability to sell off-licence alcohol as it did in the first lockdown.”