English pubs, restaurants and breweries will be able to sell alcohol via takeaway services during lockdown after a U-turn by the government.
Pre-ordered alcohol can be collected by customers providing they do not enter the premises, and must order their drink via a website, phone or text message, the government has said. Deliveries will also be permitted.
Pub bosses hailed it as a small victory but said the rules should allow venues to sell drink in the same way as an off-licence.
Plans published at the weekend indicated that while restaurants could sell takeaway food, takeaway alcohol was to be banned.
“Takeaway alcohol from pubs if it is pre-ordered and customers don’t enter the premises is movement, but still not anywhere near enough,” said Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association.
“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.”
In the last lockdown, pubs in England had been allowed to sell takeaway pints and food, and were concerned that closure for a month would mean pouring millions of pints of ale down the drain as open kegs would go off.
“UKHospitality has welcomed the pragmatic decision to allow restaurants and pubs to sell pre-ordered takeaway alcohol.
The decision will ensure a vital lifeline for businesses is not strangled and will enable venues to retain a valuable link with their communities.
UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said: “It is a welcome and helpful clarification that restaurants and pubs will be permitted to continue with off-licence sales of alcohol through delivery, click and collect and takeaway for pre-ordered sales. Having that channel of revenue was a lifeline to many businesses in the first lockdown.
“This also means that the valuable community service that pubs, in particular, provide to communities, can be sustained during a second lockdown, the prospect of which will be concerning many vulnerable and lonely people who suffered during the first lockdown. The delivery and collection provisions also represent a common sense approach to minimising waste. That those venues can also open as a shop, including as an off licence, is also welcome.
“It is a relief to have sight of this guidance – yet again, venues have precious little time in which to digest and implement them. A vital element to the successful application of the guidance, at short notice, will be clear local authority guidance on their enforcement, so that venues have confidence that there will be consistency across England.”
A government spokesperson said: “We recognise that these are extremely challenging circumstances for pubs and the hospitality industry. Public health and safety remains our number one priority and that is why pubs and other hospitality venues cannot serve alcohol on site to takeaway to prevent people from gathering outside their premises.
“However, they can sell alcohol as part of delivery services, including through click and collect, over the telephone and by other remote methods of ordering for collection, provided customers do not congregate as groups once they have picked up their order.”
CAMRA’s National Chairman Nik Antona said: “I am delighted that the Government has listened to the concerns of thousands of CAMRA members, concerned pub-goers, and beer lovers who have e-mailed their MPs in the last 48 hours urging the Government to allow pubs and breweries to sell alcohol as takeaway during the second lockdown.
“This is a vital lifeline for local pubs and breweries across England over the coming four weeks, giving them a lifeline of income and allowing people to support local businesses.
“CAMRA continues to call on the Government to bring in a comprehensive, long-term financial support package to support all pubs and breweries through the lockdown and the tough months that will follow this winter. Without a sector-specific support package, we risk seeing thousands of pubs and breweries closing their doors for good.”