Customers at pubs in Tier 2 areas in England will be able to stay and finish their drink after eating a meal, environment secretary George Eustice has confirmed.
Eustice sought to clarify the issue ahead of the majority of country entering the highest two levels of coronavirus restrictions on 2 December.
Under the rules pubs in Tier 3 areas will have to close, while those in Tier 2 can only serve alcohol as part of a ‘substantial meal'.
On Friday a No 10 spokesperson told the BBC that people should leave pubs once they finish their food.
Speaking on Sky News today, Eustice said: "You can finish your drink providing you're at a table and you've had a drink with a meal.
"What you probably couldn't do is have a small meal and sit at a table all night ordering drinks."
Eustice told LBC on Monday a scotch egg ‘probably would count' as a meal if there was table service.
When questioned on what the definition was of a ‘substantial meal', a cabinet office spokesperson pointed to official guidance which states: "Venues must close unless they operate as if they were a restaurant. This means serving substantial meals, like a main lunchtime or evening meal. They may only serve alcohol as part of such a meal."
Around 16,000 pubs in England will be forced to close under Tier 3 rules, while 21,000 will fall into Tier 2, according to the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA).
The BBPA has warned the sector faces collapse without further government support. Last week the bosses of more than 50 pub and brewing businesses wrote to the prime minister warning the industry was facing thousands of job losses and permanent closures without more help.