Punters must eat ‘a proper meal’ if they want to be served alcohol in pubs in ‘very high’ alert areas – and packets of crisps apparently do not count.
A Conservative minister suggested that so long as pub classics like a Cornish pasty came with a side of chips or salad, they could be considered ‘a normal meal’.
Under the Prime Minister’s new three-tier lockdown system, pubs and bars in Tier 3 – very high level – may be forced to close unless they can operate as a restaurant.
Speaking to LBC, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick attempted to define what an acceptable meal is, explaining that it must be ‘substantial’, like one you might have for lunch or tea.
‘The test in law is that a substantial meal is the sort of meal that you would expect to have as a midday meal or an evening meal,’ he said.
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‘It would be like a main course, rather than, say, a packet of crisps or a plate of chips.’
He added that many licence-holders would be familiar with the measures as they were similar to previous rules regarding minors.
‘If you would expect to go into that restaurant normally, or pub, and order a plated meal at the table of a Cornish pasty with chips or side salad or whatever it comes with, then that’s a normal meal,’ he said.
‘This isn’t actually as unusual a concept as you might feel.
‘We’ve had this in law for licence-holders for a long time because it’s the same rule that has applied if you take a minor into a pub.
‘You can’t do so unless they have a substantial meal alongside the alcoholic drinks, so people who actually run pubs and bars will be familiar with this and know how to operate it.’
The official guidance regarding food service also states that ‘a table meal is a meal eaten by a person seated at a table, or at a counter or other structure which serves the purposes of a table’.
Last night, the Prime Minister said rising coronavirus cases and hospital admissions are flashing like ‘dashboard warnings in a passenger jet’ as he set out his new three-tier lockdown system.
The system will divide England into medium, high or very high risk categories.
Pubs and bars across Merseyside will close unless they serve food and alcohol as part of a sit-down meal as the Liverpool city region moves into a ‘very high’ Covid alert level.
Areas in the top tier will be able to impose extra restrictions, and in the Liverpool city region this will mean the closure of leisure centres, gyms, betting shops and casinos.
Prof Whitty warned the measures could become stricter should more be required to suppress the virus.
He said: ‘I am not confident, and nor is anybody confident, that the tier three proposals for the highest rates… if we did the absolute base case, and nothing more, would be enough to get on top of it.
‘And that is why there’s a lot of flexibility in the tier three level for local authorities, guided by the directors of public health, to actually go up that range, so that they can do significantly more than the absolute base because the base will not be sufficient.’
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