English pubs will be able to sell takeaway beer during this month’s lockdown, as long as its pre-ordered by phone or online, in a government U-turn after fears that more than 7m pints of alcohol would have to be poured away.
The new rules are laid out in the government regulations on the new high street lockdown which were published less than 48 hours before they come into effect on Thursday.
Nik Antona, the national chairman of the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra), welcomed the tweak to the rules to enable beer takeaways, which the government had previously indicated would not be allowed.
“This is a vital lifeline for local pubs and breweries across England over the coming four weeks,” he 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.”
But he said that without a specific support package there was still a risk that thousands of pubs and breweries would be closing their doors for good.
Emma McClarkin, the chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said the change to the rules was “not anywhere near enough” to help its members who must all close their doors for a month on Thursday.
“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 to survive and to stop up to 7.5m 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.”
The new rules also clarify that garden centres, outdoor food stalls, pet shops, hardware and bicycle stores will be able to remain open alongside other essential retailers including food shops and pharmacies.
However, homewares stores are not identified as essential retailers, unlike the first lockdown in the spring, potentially making life more difficult for the likes of Ikea, Dunelm and The Range, all of which traded last time.
Industry experts said it appeared that concessions selling “non-essential” items – such as clothing or furnishings – within a supermarket or garden centre would also have to close. It is not thought that goods stocked on regular supermarket shelves will have to be cordoned off, as they were initially in Wales.
Helen Dickinson, the chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said the late publication of the rules left matters unclear for businesses with little time to organise themselves ahead of Thursday.
“Many will receive the guidance surrounding these regulations with only hours before the lockdown comes into play on Thursday,” she said.
“The new regulations create arbitrary lines about what is and isn’t an ‘essential’ retailer. Despite the public now being told to both live and work at home where possible, homeware stores were left off the government’s list of essential retailers. This contrasts with Scotland where such stores are allowed to remain open, even in tier 4. Consumers should be trusted to decide what is essential to them, be it the home office equipment and electronics they require to work, or the pots, pans, fridges and freezers they need to cook.”