Subscriber login Close [x]
remember me
You are not logged in.

Govt U-turn on pub lockdown sales

Published:  04 November, 2020

In a U-turn, the government has agreed to allow England’s pubs to sell takeaway alcohol during the national lockdown that begins on Thursday.

In the regulations previously announced at the weekend, the government had specifically ruled against the practice - despite allowing it during the initial national lockdown earlier this year.

Pubs can now provide alcohol for collection by customers, but the drinks must be pre-ordered via a website, app, phone call or text message. Customers are not allowed to enter the premises.

The new measure, which also applies to brewery tap-rooms, nevertheless represents a tightening of the restrictions in place in the first lockdown, when customers where able to buy takeaway alcohol at the door.

The u-turn follows intense lobbying from the UK’s various hospitality trade bodies.

The government’s change of heart has received a mixed welcome from the trade, however.

Under the legislation to be voted on in the House of Commons today, off-licenses and brewery shops will be classed as essential retail outlets and will be allowed to remain open.

A number of trade bodies have called on the government to level the playing field between the on- and the off-trade and allow those pubs with off-licences to sell alcohol at the door.

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, 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.”

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, said: “It is good to see common sense prevail - avoiding waste and providing a valuable community service - although we can see no reason why a pub could not operate as a retail outlet for pre-packaged food and drink as many did last time.”

The government’s decision received a more positive reception from the Society of Independent Brewers.

In a statement, describing the government’s revised position as “very welcome news”, SIBA said: “Small independent breweries and community pubs have proven their ability to trade responsibly during Covid and this new guidance will allow them to prepare their businesses for safe continued trading ahead of Thursday’s lockdown.

“Pubs and small breweries are intrinsically linked, with 80% of beer from small independent brewers heading to pubs, and we would like to thank the government for their flexibility in allowing pubs to sell takeaway beer in a Covid safe and practical manner via pre-orders.”