Image source, Getty Images
By Michael Race
Business reporter, BBC News
Pubs in England and Wales will be able to continue selling takeaway drinks after the government decided to keep Covid licensing rules.
They were allowed to serve customers through hatches when they were forced to close under pandemic laws in 2020.
The rules were due to expire on 30 September, but the BBC has been told they will now continue.
The move – aimed at saving the trade from financial ruin – was previously extended twice during the pandemic.
It is understood Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stepped in to enable the current licensing rule to continue.
The Sun newspaper, which first reported the story, quoted a source saying the prime minister had “listened to the industry and heard them loud and clear”.
The rules, which were granted in July 2020, allows pubs without an off-premises licence to sell takeaway alcohol without having to apply to their local council for permission.
The change allowed them to keep trading during Covid restrictions.
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, whose members own over 20,000 pubs, welcomed the decision, saying landlords would be pleased not to have to apply for additional licences.
“This was a measure introduced to support our pubs during difficult times and the prime minister must recognise that these businesses are still under immense pressure,” she said.
Martin McTague, national chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, said the move would provide pubs with an “extra revenue stream to mitigate the rising costs”.
With the rules having been expected to expire at the end September, pubs that wanted to continuing serving takeaway pints would have had to apply to local councils for permission.
Before its decision to keep the rules in place after all, the Home Office had said that it had sought opinions from councils, residents’ groups and drinks retailers – and that the majority of those who responded were in favour of returning to the pre-pandemic rules.
There were concerns from pub groups that such a move would have forced landlords to go through a lengthy application and approval processes to keep takeaway sales.