Pubs in England and Wales will be allowed to continue selling takeaway pints after the government decided to maintain licensing rules during the pandemic following criticism from an industry body.
The pandemic-era rules were due to expire in September after being extended twice, in a move the British Beer and Pub Association called “disappointing”.
But the government decided to extend the rules for another 18 months in what it said was “a move to cut red tape and back British pubs”.
Pubs have been given the option to sell takeaway alcohol from July 2020 without having to apply to their local councils for permission, as part of a wider effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Landlords were able to sell alcohol, sometimes through hatches, to keep their businesses going during the lockdowns.
Rishi Sunak said he was determined to support British pubs and provide “the support they need after weathering the storm of the pandemic as we grow our economy”.
“That’s why we cut unnecessary red tape so customers can enjoy a takeaway pint or alfresco drink without businesses facing additional burdens,” he added.
This means that pubs and bars do not need to make a separate application to local councils for the additional license required for off-premises sales.
The British Beer and Pub Association said the relaxed rules enabled pubs to operate without “unnecessary regulation”. Emma McClarkin, the group’s chief executive, said: “This simple change allows pubs to offer takeout options and host a wider range of events for their communities in recent years.”
A year after the rules were introduced, almost 10,000 licensed premises have closed permanently and the sector has lost more than £87bn in sales due to the pandemic, according to UK Hospitality.
The rules come into effect in 2020 as pavement licenses are made permanent to allow more customers to eat out, under the first ever hospitality strategy to support the opening and stability of the sector.
The latest intervention comes after Sunak was ridiculed during a visit to a beer festival where he sought to promote a shake-up of the alcohol duty regime that would raise taxes on various drinks.
He insisted the reforms were centered on “supporting British pubs” and that businesses and consumers would benefit, despite the rise in wine, vodka and canned beer.