Takeaway alcohol ban cuts off 'lifeline' for pubs and restaurants

05 January 2021 by
Takeaway alcohol ban cuts off 'lifeline' for pubs and restaurants

Pub operators say the ban on selling takeaway alcohol during England's national lockdown is "devastating" and warn it could threaten the survival of the industry.

Unlike previous lockdowns from 5 January hospitality venues can only sell alcohol via delivery and not through click and collect, takeaway or drive-through.

There is no restriction on the sale of alcohol at supermarkets, which publicans feel unfairly penalises the on-trade.

Heath Ball, who runs four pubs, including the Red Lion & Sun in Highgate, north London, told the Caterer that banning takeaway drinks was cutting off a lifeline for the business.

Ball said alcohol made up 50% of takeaway sales and he had spent money setting up a chalet-style shed to sell wine in the pub driveway over Christmas, which now had limited use.

He added: "I don't understand what [the government] has against pubs. They seem intent on destroying us, it's devastating.

"The government has taken a big brush and all of us are being tarnished. It's incredibly unfair. They're so out of touch with pubs and what we do to support the community. A lot of our customers are older or shielding."

Tim Foster, co-founder of the Yummy Pub Co, which runs four sites in London and the south east, described the ban as a ‘killer blow'.

He said: "Click and collect alcohol was a significant part of our offer in the November lockdown, especially boozy shakes for the burger nights. [It was] worth about 35% of the total takeaway sales mix."

Yummy Pubs had been trialling a letterbox cocktail range which it was hoping to offer for takeaway, but will now pivot to delivery only.

Food waste app Too Good To Go, which sells surplus food and drink from pubs and restaurants for collection, warned the rules would cause alcohol to go to waste on a "colossal scale".

During the November lockdown more than 35,000 pints of beer and cider and 2,500 bottles and cocktails were sold through its platform, the company said.

The app's co-founder Jamie Crummie and UK country manager Paschalis Loucaides have written an open letter to the prime minister calling for an overturn on the ban to allow the sale of closed container and packaged drinks.

"Many of our partners used the revenue generated from these waste-reduction schemes to support charities, while also donating what surplus produce they could to food banks," the letter reads.

Takeaway alcohol was initially banned during England's lockdown in November before the government amended the rules to allow drinks to be pre-ordered online or over the phone. Trade bodies hope a similar U-turn can be achieved for the upcoming lockdown, which is due to last until mid-February.

Nick Antona, chairman of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), said: "Takeaway sales in sealed containers for people to take home were a real lifeline for the trade in previous lockdowns and restricting that route to market now would be a death knell for many pubs.

"This will once again provide an unfair advantage to supermarkets and off-licenses that don't face similar restrictions."

He added: "The government must recognise that local pubs are a force for good and play an important role in bringing people together, tackling loneliness and social isolation, and supporting their local communities. When this nightmare is over, they will be vital to the nation's healing process – so long as they are still standing."

Photo: Shutterstock

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