Under England’s new coronavirus rules, pubs in tier two areas can only reopen if they serve table meals with alcoholic drinks from tomorrow (Wednesday 2 December).
However, post-lockdown legislation states the meal requirement does not apply "where alcohol is being provided to a customer at a cinema, theatre, concert hall or sportsground."
It also does not apply when "the alcohol is ordered by, and served to, a customer who has a ticket for an exhibition of a film, a performance or an event of training or competition at the venue, to consume in the area where the audience is seated to watch the exhibition, performance or event."
How can it be ok to reopen theatres, sports grounds and cinemas and let them sell alcohol without table meals - but I cannot sit outside a pub or restaurant and have a drink with my sister pic.twitter.com/g4P7R0rPjz— Kate Nicholls (@UKHospKate) November 30, 2020
Pub operators said they have been unfairly targeted, with heavier restrictions than other sectors, despite their investment into health and safety protocols.
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), said: “It’s outrageous you can have a pint in a theatre, concert hall, cinema or sports ground without a substantial meal, but not the pub. It is a slap in the face of pubs and brewers.”
The industry has invested more than £500m into making venues Covid-secure, the BBPA estimated. “These new regulations now make a mockery of the great lengths we have gone to in making our pubs safe,” McClarkin added.
“The Government has shown a total disregard for the impact its rules and restrictions are having on our sector and the thousands of jobs and communities it supports.
“Our pubs are safe and as such should be treated fairly in the same way as cinemas, theatres and sports grounds are. If the Government isn’t going to do this, then it must provide far greater support."
Doesn't make sense
Licensee Laura Totten operates the Crown in tier two Rutland and said the discrepancy “perplexes” her.
“I'm all for live music venues being supported but if alcohol is being singled out as a root cause of infection then it should be subject to the same restrictions everywhere whether it is a pub, theatre, music venue or supermarket,” she said.
“Until now I could see some sense in serving food in order to try and mitigate against the effects of alcohol on people's ability to adhere to the regulations, but this just doesn't make sense.”
Another operator flabbergasted is Ashley McCarthy, who runs the Ye Old Sun Inn, Colton, also in a tier two area.
Kick in the face
He said he thought the exceptions were “fake news” when he first heard of them. “It’s a kick in the face to hospitality,” the operator said.
McCarthy said: “I don't object to it [the tier system] but the Prime Minister is trying to justify the tiers by saying people can still go out and about, still go to nail bars and do Christmas shopping.
“You can do all that but you can't physically go to the pub and buy a drink, you can't even eat-in in tier three.”
While other sectors have to follow measures too, pub operators feel that their hard work in making venues safe hasn’t been recognised.
McCarthy added: “Are people going to be social distancing if they are bopping away to a music group?”