Data supplied in response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by The Morning Advertiser (MA) showed drink sales at the House of Lords and House of Commons’ bars totalled £281,107.31 in 2020 – of which £22,062 came since July when venues were initially allowed to reopen following the UK’s first national lockdown.
Of that total, £133,672.87 was spent in the House of Commons’ Smoking Room, Strangers Bar and Pugin Room and £147,434.45 across the House of Lords’ bars during 2020.
The two chambers supplied figures for January, February, March, July, September and October – with the House of Lords also detailing £554.60 spent during November, with England entering its second national lockdown on the fifth day of the month.
There were also no alcohol sales in April, May, June, or December due to Covid restrictions according to the FOI response, while Parliament’s summer recess also fell between 22 July and 1 September in 2020.
According to the response, more than 15,000 people have access to the Parliamentary estate and use its services, of which only 650 are MPs.
It clarified that the estate’s venues are also used by House of Commons administration staff including facilities, security staff and building contractors and members of the press as well as those employed by MPs and Peers.
Further analysis found that drink sales before Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed a national lockdown and called last orders for pubs on 20 March 2020 were £259,045.32 – with House of Commons takings in March alone totalling £27,607.59 versus £69,197.33 the previous year.
According to a previous FOI request, the House of Commons’ bars took £507,723.25 between January and October 2019, racking up £85,819.63 in July 2019 compared to sales of £4,717.90 in 2020 as sites across the UK resumed trading after a spring and early summer lockdown.
What’s more, prior to England’s second national lockdown, drink sales at the House of Commons’ bars were £3,570.03 in October versus £62,306.77 the previous year, with no November trading noted.
These figures come as data from UKHospitality and CGA found that Britain's pubs, bars, restaurants and hotels lost nearly £200m a day – or £8m per hour – in sales in 2020.
What’s more, Coffer Peach’s festive figures revealed that seasonal sales between 30 November and 3 January in drink-led managed pubs and bars were hardest hit by restrictions – with respective takings dropping by 83.7% and 87.2% versus Christmas 2019.
British Beer and Pub Association figures also stated that overall sales across the UK’s pubs over the weekend of 5 and 6 December were 84% lower than the same time last year as operators adjusted to the Government’s more stringent Covid alert system.
Prices ‘regularly benchmarked’
In terms of pricing, analysis of data supplied via the FOI request revealed that while drink prices for the House of Commons and House of Lords’ bars generally hovered around national on-trade averages provided by CGA, they were cheaper than in nearby outlets.
Pints of Peroni in the House of Lords’ bars, for example, were sold for £3.70 during 2020 – 45p less than CGA’s £4.15 average for a premium lager and £2.40 less than at the nearby Red Lion Westminster pub, according to its website.
What’s more, while a pint of Guinness would set a parched peer back £4.10 in 2020, 12p less than CGA’s national average, the same pour would cost £5.50 at the Red Lion.
Additionally, while CGA’s average ale price was £3.72 compared to the House of Lords’ £3.45 cost for a pint of Guest Ale, Old Speckled Hen or Greene King IPA, the Red Lion’s latest online menu priced London Pride at £5.05, ESB at £5.30 and Oliver’s Island at £5.15.
Furthermore, FOI data for the House of Lords revealed that while CGA’s average on-trade price for a measure of premium whisky was £4.28, visitors to the chamber’s bars could enjoy a “HOL (House of Lords) malt whisky” for £3.51, a Macallan for £3.50, or a Laphroaig for £3.90 during 2020 – though the likes of Glenmorangie (£4.15) and Laguvalin (£4.25) were more in line with CGA’s figure.
A House of Commons spokesperson previously told The MA: “Our food and drink offering is regularly benchmarked against similar outlets outside Parliament. These services are accessible to all passholders, including staff, members and journalists.”
In a number of drinks categories, however, Parliamentary prices were found to outstrip on-trade averages provided by CGA.
According to FOI data, a measure of “HOL gin” or Bombay Sapphire would set visitors back £4 compared to CGA’s average premium gin price of £3.73, while wine prices also outstripped CGA figures – with a “HOL Sauvignon Blanc” 18p more expensive and a Pinot Grigio 32p pricier.
As previously reported by The MA, House of Commons speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle MP has backed efforts to increase the number of low and no alcohol drinks in the chamber’s bars once the coronavirus pandemic has subsided.
Parliament monitors the contribution of its venues to the estate’s overall costs.