Coronavirus: Emergency planning rules will allow restaurants and pubs to operate as takeaways in bid to survive lockdown

PM advised public to stay away from social venues to stem spread of Covid-19

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Tuesday 17 March 2020 20:14 GMT
A near empty pub in London, the day after Mr Johnson called on people to stay away from social venues
A near empty pub in London, the day after Mr Johnson called on people to stay away from social venues

Restaurants and pubs will be able to operate as takeaway and delivery businesses immediately under emergency measures unveiled by the government to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

Downing Street said the plans would include relaxing planning regulations to allow social venues to start providing food delivery services, without any applications.

It follows Boris Johnson’s advice to the British public to avoid restaurants, bars and theatres, and to work from home where they possibly can in an effort to stem the spread of Covid-19 in the UK.

“We are going to change planning permissions so that pubs and restaurants will be able to turn into takeaways or deliver straight away,” a No 10 spokesperson said.

“That will serve two purposes – it will [also] allow help to get food to people who might be staying at home.”

The spokesperson said it would be a temporary measure that was “straightforward but will make a real difference”.

The government added the new measures will apply to hot food and drinks, while the sale of alcoholic beverages will continue to be subject to existing licensing laws.

Appearing next to the prime minister at a Downing Street press conference, the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, said he was extending business rates holidays for smaller companies dealing with the crisis.

The chancellor, who unveiled the biggest package of emergency state support for business since the 2008 financial crash with £330bn worth of government-backed loans, also said government advice to avoid pubs and clubs was sufficient for companies to claim on their insurance when they have cover for pandemics.

Sector leaders “cautiously” welcomed the chancellor’s announcements and said it was “proper progress” on last week’s budget.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, said the chancellor had “clearly been listening”, adding: “The focus now has to be on making sure that hospitality businesses can draw down the support loans and other funds while they still have businesses to operate, such are the levels of urgency for most businesses.

“We will wait with great anticipation and hope that the detail on employment support measures live up to the hype but, if they are substantive, this could amount to a really helpful raft of support – this needs to come urgently as jobs are being lost every day.

The British Beer and Pub Association wrote to Mr Johnson on Monday, demanding urgent steps to prevent mass job losses and permanent pub closures.

Chief executive Emma McClarkin said the industry is facing “an existential crisis” as a result of the new guidance, insisting thousands of jobs would be lost without financial help from the government.

She said: “Forced pub closures without a meaningful support package will have a catastrophic financial and social impact.”

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