Pubs should be allowed to act as off-licenses to survive lockdown, industry group warns

Sale of takeaway and click-and-collect alcohol is banned under new lockdown restrictions in England

Kate Ng
Thursday 07 January 2021 15:21
<p>An empty pub after the announcement of more restrictions</p>

An empty pub after the announcement of more restrictions

Pubs struggling to survive the third national lockdown should be allowed to operate as off-licenses, an industry group has said.

The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has urged the government to let pubs sell beer and cider in “sealed containers” for people to take home, as supermarkets and off-licenses do.

Under the current coronavirus lockdown, new rules were imposed on pubs to stop them from selling alcohol through takeaway or click-and-collect services.

According to Matt Hancock, the health secretary, the additional measure was put in place to reinforce the “stay at home” instruction issued by Boris Johnson on 4 January.

The ban on serving takeaway or click-and-collect alcohol, on top of the third lockdown, was described as “yet another blow” to the pub sector by Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association.

“The announcement today adds to the woes of pubs as it shows they are a long way from reopening properly. The road to recovery for the pub sector just got longer,” she said earlier this week.

The campaign by CAMRA calling on the government to allow pubs to operate as off-licenses was backed by Siobhan Baillie, Tory MP for Stroud, who raised it in the house of Commons during Wednesday’s emergency debate on the lockdown restrictions in England.

Ms Baillie said it was “not fair when supermarkets and off-licenses can sell regardless”.

Nik Antona, national chairman of CAMRA, said that selling takeaway and click-and-collect pints was a “real lifeline for many pubs during previous lockdowns and is desperately needed again now”.

“Pubs are also the only place where people can get cask beer which is under threat due to months of forced pub closures, with some breweries stopping production,” he added.

“The least the government can do is take a sensible approach, think again and allow community pubs to sell takeaway products. No one wants to see drinking in the streets during a lockdown, but allowing pubs to sell alcohol in sealed containers for people to take home – just like shops do – would be completely reasonable.”

Mr Antona warned that if the government does not change the lockdown rules, more local pubs will “go to the wall” and the traditional British cask ale industry will be under threat. People will also be “forced into supermarkets” as a result, instead of being allowed to support their local pub, he added.

But the government discouraged pubs from “repurposing” themselves as off-licenses to get around the new restrictions, which were put in place to avoid gatherings outside their premises.

A government spokesperson told The Independent: “Public health and safety remains our number one priority. Pubs and other hospitality venues cannot serve alcohol to takeaway to discourage people from gathering outside their premises, but they can sell alcohol as part of delivery services.

“They should not attempt to repurpose themselves as shops or off-licenses in order to circumvent these restrictions.

“We recognise these are extremely challenging circumstances facing pubs and the hospitality industry, which is why we have put in place one of the most comprehensive and generous packages of business support in the world, which includes grants, various loan schemes, a business rates holiday as well as the extended furlough scheme.”

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