Tier 2 operators 'still very unsure' on meal rules

By Emily Hawkins

- Last updated on GMT

New rules: operators have asked for more clarity on food rules ahead of reopening this week
New rules: operators have asked for more clarity on food rules ahead of reopening this week

Related tags Food lockdown Coronavirus England Sussex

Pub operators in tier two areas have said they still do not feel confident about what is permitted within the new rules.

Most of England has been placed into the second tier of coronavirus measures, where pubs are only allowed to open if they serve a “substantial meal” with alcohol from Wednesday 2 December

However, operators have said they are worried they will be punished if they unknowingly misinterpret the rules.

It comes as there has been much discussion over what counts as a “substantial meal”.

The Government’s Covid Winter Plan states pubs must serve “a full breakfast, main lunch time or evening meal”.

However, Environment Secretary George Justice told LBC a Scotch egg "probably would" meet this definition, adding fuel to operators’ confusion on what is allowed.

When asked by Sky News about this statement, the Prime Minister's spokesperson said: “Bar snacks do not count as a substantial meal." 

Very unsure

Licensee Laura Totten said: “We are still very unsure about the detail behind the headline regulations.

"A 'substantial meal' has been defined and redefined so many times in the last week, with ministers now throwing Scotch eggs into the mix."

Totten said she was confused as to whether her pub's staple tapas menu would be enough to meet the criteria and if she could serve customers drinks as they looked at menus.

“Without clearly defined detail being shared every business out there will be left to interpret them as they see fit leaving customers confused and potentially putting business owners at risk of punitive measures," the operator added.

Another licensee feeling confused is Corinne Cook, who said: "I wish once and for all they would stipulate the rules on substantial food as I'm sick to death of hearing different politicians say different things. One says a Cornish pasty and side salad and then another today has apparently said a Scotch egg! If they have no idea, how are we supposed to get it right?"

Clarity needed

Under new rules, the Government has stated: "Businesses that do not ordinarily serve food may enter into a contracting arrangement in order that they are able to do so and remain open. However, allowing customers to bring food into the premises that had been purchased elsewhere in order to consume alcohol remains prohibited."

What’s more, the Evening Standard ​reported that pubgoers must not linger in a pub after eating a meal. It reported a Downing Street spokesperson as confirming that punters must not order more drinks after finishing their food.

The Morning Advertiser (MA)​ has asked the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to confirm the expectations around diners ordering drinks after eating. BEIS had not responded by the time of publication but this article will be updated on a response.

Wet-led pubs in tier two have said they will have no choice but to remain closed.

Sam Ian Smith, operates the Maypole Inn in Arundel, West Sussex and told The MA​ his site does not have the facilities to do food.

“Our day time trade is very much walkers and cyclists and the elderly who pop past for a quick pint and a bag of crisps and to read the paper. Sometimes our local tradesmen swing past. None of these will want a substantial meal,” he explained.

The operator considered a food venture but will likely not open the inn until after Christmas now as it cannot guarantee the revenue from this.

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