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Coronavirus: English pubs can sell takeaway drinks during lockdown after government U-turn


The English government has taken a U-turn on alcohol sales during lockdown so pubs will be allowed to sell takeaway drinks under certain circumstances.

Customers will be able to do so by ordering “through a website, or otherwise by on-line communication”, “by telephone, including orders by text message”, and “by post”.

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It is not clear whether this was an intentional move while media outlets have described it as a loophole.

The British Beer & Pub Association has called the measure “grossly unfair” to pubs with off-licences because supermarkets and corner shops can still sell alcohol during the lockdown without customers needing to pre-order.

According to the initial plans for the lockdown starting on Thursday and ending on December 2, food-led venues were allowed to provide takeaway and delivery services but a ban on alcohol sales would have prompted several venues to shutter altogether.

Earlier this week, J D Wetherspoon plc (LON:JDW) announced plans to clear out stock by selling all real ale for 99p per pint until it shutters on Wednesday night.

During the first lockdown earlier this year, takeaway drinks had been a lifeline for many wet-led establishments.

“CAMRA continues to call on the Government to bring in a comprehensive, long-term financial support package to support all pubs and breweries through the lockdown and the tough months that will follow this winter,” said Nik Antona, chairman of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA).

“Without a sector-specific support package, we risk seeing thousands of pubs and breweries closing their doors for good.”

Meanwhile, the UK’s oldest brewer Shepherd Neame slumped to a loss and warned many city centre venues “may close for good” in light of the current environment.

The Aquis-listed historical publican posted a GBP2.9mln loss before tax for the year to June 27, from a GBP11.4mln profit the year before.

“The hospitality market will evolve rapidly as a result of Covid-19,” it said.

“Many of our pubs may benefit, particularly suburban and community pubs which is the core base of our estate.”

Wet-let pubs had mixed reactions on Wednesday afternoon, with Fullers (LON:FSTA) rising 3% to 575.13p, Young’s (LON:YNGA) adding 1% to 825p and Marston’s (LON:MARS) dipping 1% to 47.46p.

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