Matt Hancock dodges questions on 'substantial meal' loophole

Can you get a TAKEAWAY delivered to the pub? Matt Hancock dodges questions on ‘substantial meal’ loophole – as savvy landlords reveal their plans to get around Tier 2 rules

  • Pubs without kitchens in Tier 2 are trying new ways to continue serving drinks 
  • Some are pairing with takeaways in bid to provide ‘substantial meals’ to punters
  • But Matt Hancock dodged question over whether such schemes are within rules
  • What is YOUR pub serving as a substantial meal? Or are you using a takeaway service to bring in food?  Contact me: [email protected] 

Matt Hancock today dodged questions over a ‘substantial meal’ loophole that could see pubs team up with takeaways in order to keep pulling pints.

In the latest round of interviews involving ministers facing a grilling over food and pubs, the Health Secretary blanked questions on whether watering holes could use takeaway services as way to continue serving alcoholic drinks.

He instead said it was ‘very clearly the principles in law at what is and isn’t expected’ and warned those who broke the law could face court action.

It comes as savvy landlords of so-called ‘wet pubs’ – which do not traditionally serve food – have revealed their plans to get round the government’s new Covid restrictions

Some are pairing up with takeaway businesses in a bid to open up under Tier 2 restrictions.

Pubs in Tier 2 are allowed to welcome customers back – unlike Tier 3 where they can only reopen for takeaways.

However tier 2 pubs are only allowed to serve alcoholic drinks with a ‘substantial meal’.

But while the hot topic has been about whether scotch eggs count as a ‘substantial meal’, some pub landlords have been looking at other ways to open up.

In the latest round of interviews in which cabinet ministers faced a grilling over food in pubs, the Health Secretary did not say whether watering holes could use takeaway services as way to continue pourings pints

In Worcester, one pub, The Brewers Arms (pictured) is teaming up with a nearby fish and chip shop in order to stay open under Tier 2 rules

Mark and Debie Daniels, of The Brewers Arms (pictured), which has no kitchen, has partnered with Nick Zipiti of St John’s Fish Bar, according to Worcester News

The G-A-Y bar in London’s Soho, which does not normally serve food, is preparing to let customers have McDonald’s delivered in a bid to get round the rules. 

Owner Jeremy Joseph told the Sun: ‘McDonald’s was chosen because of its cheap menu which means everyone can socialise no matter their budget.’

What can you do in a pub in each tier? 

  • Tier 1 – Pubs are open for alcohol or food with people from different households allowed to sit together.
  • Tier 2 – Pubs can only serve alcohol with a ‘substantial meal’. People from different households can only sit together outside, and must follow the ‘rule of six’. Those sitting inside the pub at the same table must be from the same household.
  • Tier 3 – Pubs are closed for everything but takeaway.

 

In Worcester, one pub is teaming up with a nearby fish and chip shop in order to stay open under Tier 2 rules.

Mark and Debie Daniels, of The Brewers Arms, which has no kitchen, has partnered with Nick Zipiti of St John’s Fish Bar, according to Worcester News.

It means The Brewers Arms can keep pulling pints – which they would be otherwise unable to do without serving a substantial meal alongside.

The pub will operate around the chip shop’s usual hours and customers will be asked to order food at the bar before being able to buy a drink.

Mr Daniels told the paper: ‘This partnership has allowed us to open again as we do not have a kitchen on site. We went to the council and they were impressed with the idea and allowed us to operate in this way for now. I am really pleased.’ 

Another pub landlord has jokingly renamed an ale ‘Substantial Meal’ in a cheeky bid to get around new Covid-19 restrictions.

Brett Mendoza, 40, who owns the Caxton Arms in Brighton, East Sussex, came up with the idea while discussing what constitutes a substantial meal with another landlord after the latest measures were announced last week.

An image of the spoof beer pump clip, which is from the ‘made up brewery’ and described as ‘hearty, filling and flavoursome’, was posted to social media last Wednesday, captioned: ‘Bring on Tier 2’.

The post has garnered over 1,600 likes and more than 200 shares, with one social media user commenting: ‘Along with a bag of crisps and a pickled egg, substantial enough meal for anyone.’

Another simply tweeted: ‘Brilliant’, while a third added: ‘I love that’.


Brett Mendoza (right), 40, who owns the Caxton Arms in Brighton, came up with the idea (left) as a joke while discussing what constitutes a substantial meal with another landlord

Brighton and Hove is being placed in Tier 2 tomorrow, meaning diners in England are not allowed to linger or order more booze after their food is finished (pictured: the Caxton Arms)

The pub landlord (right) said he devised the beer name as part of a joke and it is not a real brand, despite customers already attempting to order the booze

Diners will be able to eat al fresco outside central London restaurants for next six months 

Diners will be able to eat in al fresco outside central London restaurants for the next six months, it was revealed today.

Pubs and restaurants in the capital will be allowed to reopen tomorrow under Tier 2 coronavirus rules, along with much of the rest of the country.

Diners will be allowed to eat together as long as there are a maximum of six people sat with each other and everyone in the group is from the same support bubble or household if sat inside.

And Westminster Council has announced the new rules allowing groups to eat al fresco in groups of up to six in mixed households from tomorrow will be continued for a further six months.

Council leader Rachael Robathan, said the scheme, which allows venues to provide ‘pop up’ dining areas in streets, would be an important way of supporting the hospitality industry.

She said: ‘We have 3,700 restaurants, pubs and bars in central London and they help to support around 80,000 jobs.

‘Hospitality is a big employer for us and while the sector faces another tough few months under tier two restrictions, at least we can support those venues who can offer outside space.’

At the same time, Westminster City Council has launched a ‘shop safe’ campaign, which emphasises measures the authority has taken to make the streets as safe as possible.

These include widening pavements, installing 7 miles (11km) of cycle lanes, social distance signage and hand sanitiser stations across the City.

A social media campaign being launched by Westminster City Council on Wednesday will underline the safety messages.

It comes as Matt Hancock today dodged the question of whether pubs and takeaways could team up in Tier 2 areas in order for watering holes to continue serving alcohol.

Speaking to Sky News today, Mr Hancock was asked repeatedly whether a ‘wet pub’ could have a takeaway delivered in order to serve alcoholic drinks to customers in Tier 2.

He said: ‘We’ve set out very clearly the principles in law at what is and isn’t expected. If you break that law – it’s set out clearly.’

He added: ‘It is for the courts to interpret on each individual case. Absolutely we will enforce against these laws.’

He continued: ‘The courts interpret the law that has been set by parliament for this country.

‘If people break that law, then it’s for the courts, based on the individual circumstances, to determine that.

‘I don’t think it’s acceptable to try to push the boundaries of these rules and it’s a matter for the courts to interpret the law.’

Meanwhile the debate today rages on around scotch-egg gate – the row over whether a scotch egg can be a substantial meal or not. 

Mr Hancock appeared to put to bed confusion over the egg and meat treat after ministers blurred lines by repeatedly changing course yesterday.

Cabinet Secretary Michael Gove gave three different lines in three different interviews yesterday morning when quizzed about scotch eggs, which have become a unusual but key talking-point in the government’s new Covid-19 tier system. 

On Scotch eggs, Mr Hancock told Sky News: ‘A substantial meal is a well-established concept in hospitality.

‘Of course, a Scotch egg that is served as a substantial meal – that is a substantial meal.

‘What we need to do is not try to push the boundaries, we all need to take responsibility for our own actions.’

He added: ‘The rules are the two different types of hospitality – those that obviously serve meals and those that don’t.

‘So, a starter can be a substantial meal, you can have a Scotch egg as a starter.’

He said he wanted to move away from ‘picking at the boundaries’.

It comes as yesterday a row deepened over whether a scotch egg can be classed as a ‘substantial meal’ under rules only allowing alcohol to be served with food from today.

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove told LBC two scotch eggs would be ‘a starter’, 24 hours after Environment Secretary George Eustice said one is a substantial meal.

Mr Gove reiterated his stance on LBC in a second interview on Good Morning Britain yesterday – before backtracking and then telling ITV News: ‘A scotch egg is a substantial meal.’

A row has broken out over whether a scotch egg can be classed as a ‘substantial meal’

The Kings Head in Gosfield, Essex , is offering £1.99 plates on a ‘Boris Menu’ such as a hotdog and chips; baked beans on toast with cheese; and cheeseburger and chips

London and Liverpool will be put into Tier 2, while only the Isle of Wight, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly are in the bottom tier

Pub landlords have warned that the tier system will force traditional old fashioned pubs out of business after the government’s proposed support package was met with derision.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced today that all ‘wet’ pubs that do not serve food would be given a one-off grant of £1,000.

He said the payout was to recognise ‘how hard they have been hit by this virus in what is typically their busiest month’.

But one pub landlord accused the Prime Minister of using the ‘token gesture’ as a means to appease Tory rebels criticising the tier system.

The chair of the Campaign for Pubs, Paul Crossman, who runs The Swan, The Slip Inn and Volunteer Arms pubs in York, said the meagre £1,000 grant has ‘offended’ pub owners.

He also warned it spells the end for many old fashioned pubs that do not serve food.

‘A lot of publicans are saying they are really offended by this amount,’ he said.

‘It might sound a lot to someone in the street but the revenues that pubs have to take to stay afloat, £1000 is nothing. It won’t save any pub, put it that way. 

‘The support package on offer still falls well short of covering basic costs for the vast majority of pubs, let alone compensating them for any of the trade that is being denied them over the vital festive period.

Mr Crossman added: ‘This one-off payment is a token gesture to appease his rebel MPs. This statement today is pure politicking from Boris Johnson.

‘It is not enough to make a tangible difference.

‘It just reinforces the impression that the government simply have no idea what this is costing pubs in lost trade.

‘The support package this time round is not enough to even cover the costs for most pubs. Let alone compensate them for any lost trade.

‘I have three wet led community pubs here in York. We don’t do any food. We’ll be staying closed and we fall into the rates bracket where we’re entitles to £2000 every 28 days, which is a joke, because our rent is £1000 per week.

‘It’s property costs that are scaring people. The arrears are mounting all the time.

‘Some people have tens of thousands of pounds in debt now. People are not going to be clapping for £1000. It’s a drop in the ocean and pretty meaningless actually.’

The confusion came after the Government said people going into Tier 2 from today will have to have a ‘substantial meal’ to allow them to buy a pint.

The law says a substantial meal is ‘might be expected to be served as breakfast, the main midday or main evening meal, or as a main course at such a meal’.

Some pubs have now brought out new menus, with one offering a ‘Boris Menu’ of £1.99 meals – while Wetherspoon has launched a new breakfast muffin range. 

Landlords accused the Government of providing ‘no clarity’ on the substantial meal rule.

One Essex pub has launched a new £1.99 simplified food menu so that customers can enjoy alcoholic drinks, but do not have to spend lots of money or have a large meal.

Named ‘The Boris Menu’, The Kings Head in Gosfield is offering plates such as a hotdog and chips; baked beans on toast with cheese; and cheeseburger and chips.

Pub owner Matthew Arnold, 38, told Essex Live: ‘Every time a new regulation is implemented it incurs a lot of time and cost for pubs to abide.

‘It’s the frustration that prompted the menu idea initially at the same time as catering for customers that don’t necessarily want a large and costly meal each time they want to visit us.’

Meanwhile the Wetherspoon pub chain has launched a new breakfast menu ahead of tomorrow’s reopening, include a muffin range and reducing the price of coffee and tea to 99p.

Customers can choose from four new breakfast muffins – egg and bacon; egg and sausage; breakfast (with bacon and sausage); and egg and cheese. 

Other pubs have resorted to writing long lists of rules on their website to help keep customers safe.

Tailors, in Cambray Place, Cheltenham, has put a list of 17 things customers should know before they enter the watering hole.

The list includes a recommendation to book a table in advance, rules about seating and a warning that customers who are sitting outside will not be given refunds for unfinished meals and drinks if the weather turns bad. 

Other pubs in Tier 2 have said they will not be opening at all, despite being allowed to.  

The Royal Standard near Weymouth will stay closed according to a post on its Facebook page.

It said: ‘Well after the announcement, we have taken the heart breaking decision to unfortunately remain closed until the next review on Friday 16th December.

‘We had planned to restart our food but the limitations of the guidelines have forced us to make this decision. On behalf of the whole team here we thank you for your continued support and hope to see you all again very soon.

‘Stay safe gang and we’ll be back bigger and better.’

Another pub, also named the Royal Standard, this time in Yeovil, is also remaining closed.

In a post on its Facebook page, it said: ‘Following on from the announcements of the new Tiers being brought into place.

‘It is with a heavy heart that we will not be reopening on the 3rd December as planned.

‘As soon as we go back into Tier one we will be opening our doors to all of our lovely customers once again!’

Meanwhile punters have been enjoying the return of pubs.

Intensive care nurses Juan Garcia, 27, and Francisco Sanchez, 28, had come straight to the pub from a nightshift at a nearby hospital.

The pair, originally from Spain, were tucking into breakfast muffins alongside a pint of orange juice.

‘We’ve just finished working a nightshift so we came straight here for breakfast, which feels nice,’ said Mr Garcia.

Mr Sanchez added: ‘It’s a bit of a tradition actually. It’s good to be back

‘But I’m not getting a beer because if I did I think I’d pass out after all that time working.’

Intensive care nurses Juan Garcia, 27, and Francisco Sanchez, 28, had come straight to the pub from a nightshift at a nearby hospital

Damian Brady, 66, was enjoying a drink at the Asparagus with his fellow regulars Steve Baker, 65, and their friend Sidney

Mr Garcia said he did not understand the point of forcing people to have a meal with their drink.

Landlords – get in touch with MailOnline:

What is YOUR pub serving as a substantial meal?

Or are you using a takeaway service to bring in food?

Contact me: [email protected] 

‘I don’t know what the point of that is. If you want more drinks you can just go from pub to pub,’ he said.

‘It’s not going to work – like many of the things that they’ve been doing.’

Damian Brady, 66, was enjoying a drink at the Asparagus with his fellow regulars Steve Baker, 65, and their friend Sidney.

Mr Brady ordered a Kronenbourg with his Full English breakfast, but was frustrated with the Government’s new rules.

He told MailOnline: ‘This breakfast will be the slowest breakfast in history, I’ll still be here at 4pm. One bean, two beans…

‘The Government has got no idea – the rules are absolutely childish. There’s no set pattern whatsoever.’

Mr Brady tried to order a second pint when the waitress delivered his breakfast but was told by his friends this was against the rules.

‘I tried it and I failed,’ he joked. ‘The rules remind me of a jigsaw – it’s nearly that complicated.

‘At the same time it’s great to come to come to the pub and speak to people.

‘Although I was happy at home – four tins of Stella, £5.50, and four cans of Guinness, £5 – I was in my element.’

‘Off for a cooked breakfast and a pint!’: Tier Two drinkers rejoice as lockdown ends while those in Tier Three are left pining for the pub – as landlords get set for busy day serving ‘substantial meals’

England’s second national lockdown came to an end overnight, sparking a wave of excitement across social media as people prepare to return to the pubs – and landlords get set for a busy day serving ‘substantial meals’.

Social media users this morning rejoiced the ending of the month-long shutdown, which ended overnight.

The lockdown rules will be replaced by a new tiered system from today. The rules mean pubs in Tier 2 areas, including London and large parts of the south-east, can reopen.

Hours after the lockdown was lifted, social media users in Tier 2 were quick to show their readiness to return to the pubs.

But those in Tier 3, where pubs and restuarants can only open for takeaway, were left pining for a pint.

One Twitter user, Neil Hughes, said: ‘I’m off for a cooked breakfast and a pint.’

Nay Evans, said: ‘End of lockdown, we made it. See use (sic) in the pub for 5 Guinness and a Cesar salad.’

Another said: ‘Lockdown is over, you can catch me at the pub with my friends tonight, unless you are in Tier 2 or 3.’ 

Another user of Twitter said: ‘Me getting ready to go to the pub tomorrow.’

Jo Mac, a Twitter user, said: ‘And we are out of lockdown! Wohoooo!!! Who wants to come to the pub with me for a pint and a substantial meal?’ 

Another said: ‘Woohoo! Lockdown has ended. We are free to have a beer down the pub.

‘With a scotch egg of course. Do we have to sit at a table and use a knife and fork to eat it, or can we stand at the bar?’

Another said: ‘Lockdown is over, you can catch me at the pub with my friends tonight, unless you are in Tier 2 or 3.’ 

But while people in Tier 2 were left excited for a trip to the pub, those in Tier 3 were left pining for a pint.

One said: ‘Back in Tier 3, well done everyone! – Now let’s get Tier 2 so I can go to the pub!’

Another said: ‘Oh great, after four weeks I can go to non-essential shops again. But not to the pub or anything enjoyable.

‘Tier 1 before lockdown, Tier 3 today, utter madness.’  

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