Allowing takeaway drinks will 'unpick' the lockdown measures claims PM

By Nicholas Robinson

- Last updated on GMT

No takeout: Boris Johnson not clear on takeout alcohol ban
No takeout: Boris Johnson not clear on takeout alcohol ban

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The rules have changed, see below: Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said allowing takeaway drinks from pubs and bars during England's second lockdown would result in the measures being 'unpicked'.

Answering the question of why the on-trade can't sell alcoholic drinks to takeaway, Johnson told the House of Commons: "The answer is there's a budget of measures we need to bring together to bring the R [rate] down and when you start unpicking a lot of the rest of it comes out."

"The people of this country want to put human life first and to save as many lives as possible," he continued.

"But if we enforce these measures properly then we should be able to get the R down as I described and have businesses able to open up again."

Second national lockdown

Commentary by Nicholas Robinson, managing editor:

The Prime Minister so far seems reluctant to relax any of the restrictions his Government has put in place for England's second lockdown. Several times in the House of Commons MPs asked him to relent on certain aspects of the rules, such as stopping golf, closing gyms and preventing pubs and bars from serving takeaway alcohol, etc…

His answer to all of these questions was the same – if you relent on one rule then others become more susceptible to scrutiny and change.

It appears Johnson is unwilling to relax one rule in fear that others may also be dropped. In short, he doesn't want to spoil his plan, even though minor variations could, for many pubs, mean the difference between survival or failure.

For many businesses and people across the UK, 'Lockdown 2.0' won't be as harsh as the first one in spring. It is just four weeks long and will end on 2 December, Johnson confirmed. However, pubs have certainly drawn the short straw for November. They can't provide a full alternative to what they would on-premise with this rule in place.

Wet-led pubs can't offer a takeaway, while those with a mix of wet and dry can only provide half of what they are good at.

Perhaps it wouldn't be so stinging if the sector hadn't also been so brutally punished between spring and now. Pubs have faced a crippling 10pm curfew as well as a barrage of rules during the tier system.

The sector waits to see what else will be thrown at it. The people behind pubs are resilient, enterprising and clever. But the feeling it is being more heavily targeted than other trades is growing stronger, and who knows what that could mean for a Conservative government that, until this year, had the backing of pubs?

Johnson was supposed to be laying out his plans for England's second national lockdown today (Monday 2 November) in the House of Commons. 

However, he had to make an emergency announcement​ on Saturday after the plans were leaked, and the Prime Minister therefore spent his time today answering questions on the lockdown.

Under the new rules, due to come into force on Thursday 5 November, pubs, bars and other "non-essential" businesses will have to close until 2 December.

Pubs can continue to sell takeaways and deliveries, but alcoholic takeaways will be prohibited.

This morning, the pub trade called for clarity on the guidance, which states: "Hospitality venues like restaurants, bars and pubs must close but can still provide takeaway and delivery services. However, takeaway of alcohol will not be allowed.

The Morning Advertiser ​contacted the Cabinet Office for more clarification, but was told more information would be made available when the law comes into effect this Thursday.

Baffling and damaging decision

Industry bodies have slammed the move​, including Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) national chairman Nik Antona who said: "Offering alcohol for takeaway was a lifeline for many pubs, and particularly breweries, during the first lockdown in England.

"It is a baffling and damaging decision to remove this option, particularly when other businesses such as supermarkets can continue to sell takeaway alcohol.

"Pubs and breweries were already reporting losses and the risk of closure before Christmas, and this will only add to the risk of permanent closures within the next few months.

"CAMRA and the entire pub and brewery industry are now urging the Government to reverse this bizarre decision and ensure the survival of our pubs and breweries."

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