What are wet pubs and will they be open at all over Christmas?

Pubs in England have finally been able to open again after a month-long shut-down.

But with 99% of the country living under either tier two or tier three Covid rules, going for a pint has become much more complicated than it used to be.

So called ‘wet pubs’ have suffered the most from the new tier restrictions because they are not allowed to open in large parts of the country.

The Government has made support available to those who are struggling but industry leaders claim much more is needed.

With many likely to be closed for all of Christmas – often the busiest time of the year – wet pubs are facing a very uncertain future.

The rules in place now are likely to last until the spring, when enough of the population has received a vaccine. But areas will go up and down in the tier system, depending on the infection rate.

Here we unpick the current restrictions and what they’ll mean for you, the next time you fancy a drink.

What is a wet pub?

A wet pub is essentially one that only serves alcohol and not food. They are not allowed to open in tier two areas because rules state alcohol can only be served with a substantial meal. In tier three no pubs can open, except for collection or delivery.

Some wet pubs have teamed up with nearby takeaways in order to serve drinkers a meal with their pint. But the vast majority have had to remain shut until the area they are in moves into tier one – where drinking without food is allowed.

Boris Johnson has pledged to give every wet pub a £1,000 one-off ‘Christmas grant’ to help them cope with the new restrictions but this has been criticised as not enough by industry leaders.

The run-up to Christmas is often the busiest time of the year for pubs and with many likely to be forced to close entirely until the new year, several landlords have warned they may not be able to keep things afloat.

What pubs will be open at Christmas?

The rules for pubs are not changing over the Christmas period. This means the restrictions that are currently in place will remain the same.

Pubs in tier two areas have to serve alcohol with food while pubs in tier three areas can only offer takeaway.

The bubble system is being relaxed over Christmas to allow three households to join together from December 23 to 27. Importantly, this does not extend beyond the private home. So you can’t visit a pub with your Christmas bubble.

You can only visit pubs in tier two areas and sit inside with people you live with. You must sit outside with people you don’t live with. In tier one, the rule of six applies both inside and outside.

What counts as a substantial meal?

Ministers have stressed the concept of a substantial meal is well established in the hospitality trade because it has allowed parents to buy an alcoholic drink for someone who is underage, if they are also eating.

But there has been much debate about what counts as a substantial meal and it’s still not wholly clear. Ministers appeared to contradict themselves over whether bar snacks like a Scotch egg would count. It was eventually decided that it would.

The Government’s winter plan defines a substantial meal as ‘a full breakfast, main lunchtime or evening meal’. This suggests you will only be allowed to order alcohol along with a main course, rather than a side or starter.

When will the rules for pubs change?

Some pubs may find their area moves between the three tiers between now and Christmas. This would either relax the rules or make them stronger, depending on whether the area goes up a tier or down a tier.

The next date for the tier system being reviewed in December 16. Any changes will be announced on December 17. Experts have warned the Government not to risk a third wave of Covid in the new year by loosening the rules too much over Christmas so it is unlikely there will be significant changes.

The tier system is likely to be in place well into the new year, until enough people have had the vaccine to make it safe to return to normal life.

It’s hoped more and more places will be moved to tier one and enjoy the most freedoms, if infection rates continue to drop.

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