'It’s not fair on responsible operators': pubs hit by takeaway drinks ban

Heath Ball, landlord of The Red Lion & Sun in Highgate, outside the "Christmas chalet".

Heath Ball, landlord of The Red Lion & Sun in Highgate, outside the "Christmas chalet". - Credit: Polly Hancock

Pub landlords have hit out at the ban on takeaway drinks sales as part of the latest measures to slow the spread of Covid-19.

On Monday prime minister Boris Johnson announced a new national lockdown. While pubs and restaurants can still sell takeaway food, the sale of takeaway alcohol is banned. Delivery services are still allowed.

The sale of drinks to go has been a crucial source of income for some London pubs under the previous restrictions.

Heath Ball, who runs the Red Lion & Sun in Highgate, had built a “Christmas chalet” in the pub driveway to serve takeaway food and drink - and a phone with which to place orders

The lockdown has “put a quash on that,” he said, adding: “You can’t do takeaway booze anymore, but you can walk into Sainsbury’s and get a can of lager and walk down the street...It’s not fair on responsible operators like ourselves.”

Heath said the Red Lion & Sun will have to “pivot even more” to deliveries: “We’re going to start doing brunch on Saturdays for delivery and collection, just hustle as much as we can to keep the business going.”

Jimmy McGrath, landlord of the King William IV pub in Hampstead, had also been running a takeaway service. 

“We were kind of surviving on doing mulled wine outside - it was helping," he said. "But they’ve now stopped that as well. There’s no way we can make an income at the moment. So we’re totally dependent on the grants and furlough money.”

Jimmy McGrath, landlord of the King William IV in the High Street. Picture: Polly Hancock

Jimmy McGrath, landlord of the King William IV in the High Street. - Credit: Polly Hancock

On Tuesday the Treasury announced grants for pubs, restaurants and shops of up to £9,000 depending on the size of the premises.

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Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “This will help businesses to get through the months ahead – and crucially it will help sustain jobs, so workers can be ready to return when they are able to reopen.”

Jimmy said they would “certainly help” but that it will depend when the money arrives and how long the new restrictions will last.

"No one seems to know the answer to that one,” he said.

The Prince of Wales in Highgate had not been running a takeaway service. Instead, landlord Paul McAstocker had opened a separate wine and beer shop up the road from the pub. Off-licences can stay open under the current guidelines.

He said the length of the new lockdown is what most concerns him, adding: “People are saying that there’s an end in sight but I don’t really see it."

He said the grants are “just a drop in the ocean” and that having staff on furlough still costs money: “You’ve got national insurance, you’ve got PAYE, pension schemes, insurance.”

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