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The Brewing Industry Has Lashed Out At The Government's "Ludicrous And Unjustified” Ban On Pubs Selling Takeaway Alcohol During The Lockdown

Pubs will no longer be able to serve takeaway drinks during the second national lockdown (PA)

5 min read

The decision to ban pubs and bars from selling takeaway pints in the second lockdown has been described as “ludicrous and unjustified” by the brewing industry.

Many hospitality businesses relied on the ability to serve alcohol for drinking off-premise when they were forced to close during the first national lockdown in the spring.

But in the guidance published following Boris Johnson’s announcement on Saturday that England would be facing tough new measures it was explicitly banned.

Camra's chief executive Tom Stainer said takeaway alcohol was a "lifeline" for many pubs in the first lockdown, and said it was a "baffling and damaging decision" to remove the option, that would likely lead to early closures.

However, the government says it is stopping pubs from serving takeaway pints as a way of limiting people’s social contact to try and keep the infection rate down.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: “The way to get the R rate down and to bring the virus under control is to reduce the level of social contact which people are having.”

Pushed on the fact people are also going to be near each other when they buy alcohol in a supermarket, he said: “I think what we’re seeking to do is to reduce the number of gatherings that might take place, in which there could be social contact, which might lead to transmission of the virus.”

After this story was published, the government revealed that alcohol sales could be made by pubs and restaurants if they were preordered and the customer did not enter the premises.

The Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) said they were working with government “to understand why and how this has been brought in”, adding the Business and Planning Act 2020 - passed at the start of the pandemic - modified premises licences to authorise “off-sales” until 30 September 2021.

Its chief executive James Calder told PoliticsHome: "This was and remains a vital source of revenue. To take this away now, with no explanation forthcoming is ludicrous and unjustified.”

A pub industry source said the measure was placed into the new guidance "without wider consultation across government".

The guidance simply says that from Thursday: “Hospitality venues like restaurants, bars and pubs must close, but can still provide takeaway and delivery services. However, takeaway of alcohol will not be allowed.”

SIBA are also calling for an extension of financial support fo the hospitality industry, warning its members would face "a nightmare before Christmas”.

The furlough scheme is being renewed for the course of the new lockdown, and will rsee the government reverting to paying 80% of workers’ wages.

But the Campaign for Real Ale say “it does not go far enough”, with national chairman Nik Antona saying: “A second lockdown is a devastating blow for an industry that is currently on its knees. 

“Pubs have already invested thousands to reopen COVID-safe environments despite facing seriously reduced incomes. Simply put, the new lockdown couldn’t come at a worse time.”

He added: “The government must introduce a robust support package for all pubs and breweries - regardless of their current rateable value. While an extension to the furlough scheme is welcomed, it does not go far enough. 

“We need more details of how much support will be offered along with a clear roadmap out of lockdown to ensure local jobs and businesses are not lost forever.”

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association warned “this could be the final straw for thousands of pubs and brewers”.

She added: "The level of financial support will need to be same, if not greater, than that provided for the first lockdown earlier this year. This means grants for all pubs sufficient to cover ongoing fixed costs, and compensation grants for Britain’s brewers who will also be permanently devastated by the lockdown.”

UK Hospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls echoed that message, saying: “The costs to hospitality businesses of a second lockdown will be even heavier than the first, coming after periods of forced closure, the accumulation of mass debt and then significantly lower trading due to the restrictions of recent weeks. 

“The sector was hit hardest and first, and this recent shutdown will hurt for months and years to come. The extension of furlough for a further month does help to protect our workforce during this difficult time.

“If hospitality, the sector that is our country’s third largest employer, is to survive and help drive economic recovery, it will need equivalent – or more – support than that of the first lockdown.”

A government spokesperson said: “We recognise these are extremely challenging circumstances facing pubs and the hospitality industry. We have put in place one of the most comprehensive packages of business support in the world, which includes grants worth more than £3,000 per month for business premises that are forced to close, as well as the extended furlough scheme in response to tougher national restrictions.”

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