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Pubs Are Calling The Takeaway Pint Ban “Grossly Unfair” And Want More Help For Hospitality

5 min read

The hospitality industry has reacted with anger at the ban on venues serving alcohol for takeaway during the new coronavirus lockdown.

Yesterday’s statement by the Prime Minister confirmed that all hospitality venues will have to stay closed and while food and non-alcoholic drinks can be served as a takeaway, alcohol can’t.

The move, which aims to prevent congregating outside venues and potentially spreading the virus was described to PoliticsHome by one hospitality leader as the one "lifeline [that] is now being strangled".

Kate Nicholl, chief executive of UK Hospitality, dismissed that argument, saying: “If the government’s intention is to discourage people congregating outdoors, there doesn’t seem to be too much logic in it.

“Arguably, people will just go to supermarkets or off licences and buy cans or bottles, while stock in closed pubs goes to waste and compounds pubs’ losses. 

“This does seem to be another example of hospitality being scapegoated, yet again.”

She added: “Takeaway alcohol sales are unlikely to have constituted a huge revenue stream, but they will undoubtedly have been a valuable lifeline for some venues. 

“That lifeline is now being strangled, making survival even harder for lots of businesses.

And Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, told PolHome: “Supermarkets and off-licences can still sell alcohol, so it is grossly unfair that pubs with off-licences now cannot sell takeaway beer. 

“Especially as pubs have no other revenue source right now. 

“We are writing to the Government requesting them to reverse the ban as a matter of urgency.”

Rishi Sunak announced this morning that businesses can apply for grants of up to £9,000 from the Treasury to help them through the closure period. 

McClarkin welcomed the new grants, saying “without this support, pubs across England were at real risk of being lost for good”, but called on the Chancellor to deliver them immediately. 

She added: “The grants will mean many pubs may now be able make it through until spring. 

“The government now must also provide the same levels of support to brewers who have suffered months of closure of a major trading channel in pubs, but are not eligible for the support announced today.” 

Some industry bodies are instead calling for a “long-term and sector-specific financial support package”.

James Calder from the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) said: “This is simply the next blow after months of struggle for England’s community pubs and small breweries. 

“For the first time in lockdown the government intends to ban takeaway alcohol sales which have been a lifeline to these small businesses. 

“Sales through takeaway, click and collect and drive-through have enabled many to just about survive up to now. This reversal in policy directly discriminates against small businesses while allowing supermarkets to continue to sell beer from Global breweries.”

He said small breweries lose 80% of their sales when pubs close and they do not had access to the same level of support as the wider hospitality sector, including this latest round of funding.

“Small breweries and community pubs need an urgent guarantee they can continue to offer takeaway, click and collect and drive through sales and that there is a proper package of support to help small breweries below it is too late,” the SIBA chief exec added.

Nik Antona, chairman of beer and pub campaign group CAMRA, said:  “The national lockdown is yet another devastating blow for an already struggling industry, which follows hot on the heels of nearly a year of restrictions, curfews and forced closures. 

“It is clear now more than ever that the Government must introduce a new, long-term and sector-specific financial support package to help these businesses survive the coming months. 

“While one-off grant support is welcome, it is nowhere near enough to cover the haemorrhaging costs for pubs and breweries that don’t see any end in sight.

“What is particularly concerning in the latest announcement has been the confusion around whether pubs will be able to operate on a level playing field with supermarkets and off licences during this lockdown – as they have been able to previously. 

“Takeaway sales, in sealed containers, for people to take home, were a real lifeline for the trade in previous lockdowns and restricting that route to market now would be a death knell for many pubs. 

“This will once again provide an unfair advantage to supermarkets and off-licenses that don’t face similar restrictions.”

He added: “The Government must recognise that local pubs are a force for good and play an important role in bringing people together, tackling loneliness and social isolation, and supporting their local communities.

“When this nightmare is over, they will be vital to the nation’s healing process – so long as they are still standing.” 

The National chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, Mike Cherry, said: “Pubs are facing a dark and difficult winter ahead and ahead of the new restrictions coming into force tomorrow, we need to see action if we are to save the nation’s pubs from collapse.

“Those so called ‘wet pubs’ that predominantly only sell alcoholic drinks have been left high and dry.”

He added: “Not only are pubs under the cosh, but suppliers too who have seen orders cancelled and put on hold until normality resumes, which is why further support for these groups is needed urgently.

“These have been incredibly difficult times for all small businesses across the country, and the government needs to produce funds and responses that genuinely save jobs, businesses and livelihoods rather than just act as a temporary sticking plaster.”


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