Takeaway beers allowed during England's Covid lockdown after government U-turn

A pint of beer.
The industry welcomed the U-turn but warned hospitality sector still needed more support. Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

English pubs, restaurants and breweries will be able to sell alcohol via takeaway services during lockdown after a U-turn by the government.

Initially, government guidelines banned the sale of alcohol via takeaway services which had provided a lifeline to many businesses during the first lockdown.

The new rules state customers can now order their drink online which can be collected as long as they do not enter the premises.

The U-turn comes as a relief to industry bosses who have previously warned the ban would result in “thousands of gallons of beer (being) poured down drains”,

Pub owners and campaigners had called on the government to reverse the “baffling” and “nonsensical” decision.

Nik Antona, chair of the The Campaign for Real Ale (Camra), said he was "delighted" by the U-turn and praised members of the public who emailed their MPs asking them to change the rules.

He said: “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."

Mr Antona urged the government to provide more long-term support to struggling pubs and breweries, saying without it "we risk seeing thousands of pubs and breweries closing their doors for good.”

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), said the decision was a move in the right direction but it wasn't "anywhere near enough."

She said: “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.”

Details of regulations drafted to cover England’s expected second lockdown were released on Tuesday evening – less than 48 hours before they come into effect – and will be voted on in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

Takeaway beer delivery helped sustain many breweries during the April lockdown. Credit: PA

The proposed regulations say that a restricted business can only sell alcohol for off-premises consumption by “making deliveries in response to orders received” through a website or other online communication, by telephone, including text message, or by post.

Elsewhere in the regulations, breweries are listed as being included among “off-licences and licensed shops selling alcohol” permitted to stay open during lockdown.

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said: “We recognise that these are extremely challenging circumstances for pubs and the hospitality industry.

Millions of pints of beer still face being wasted due to the November lockdown. Credit: PA

“Public health and safety remains our number one priority and that is why pubs and other hospitality venues cannot serve alcohol on site to take away 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.”

Under new lockdown rules, people will only be able to visit outdoor public places with the people they live with, their support bubble, or one person from another household in parks, beaches, countryside, public gardens, allotments and playgrounds.