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Government u-turn on takeaway beers

The Government has decided to extend licensing laws introduced during the Covid-19 pandemic which allows pubs to sell takeaway beers.

According to The Sun, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has stepped in to allow pubs in England and Wales to continue with off-sales, so customers can enjoy pints in plastic containers away from the licensed premise, and without asking for council permission.

The move, which saw customers served through hatches during the pandemic, was due to expire on 30 September but will now continue until March 2025, the report claims.

During the pandemic, the government said it would find a permanent solution to support pubs when it implemented the temporary off-premise sales exception in July 2020, as the country emerged from its first lockdown. Through the relaxed rules, pubs and bars were able to sell alcohol directly onto the street within the area covered by any pavement license.

Commenting on the Government’s decision to extend COVID rules for takeaway pints, CAMRA Chief Executive Tom Stainer said that he hoped the rules on draught takeaway sales would also be relaxed, as publicans would be restricted from sales regardless of license.

He said: “It’s a good sign that the Government has listened and decided to backtrack on their plans to end the automatic permission for pubs to make off-sales. We hope that they have also been listening very carefully to the trade and consumers, who are also calling for a relaxation of the new tax rules around draught takeaway sales, which restrict many publicans from selling takeaway beer and cider regardless of whether their license allows them to do so. This is because the new rules force them to buy separate containers of draught beers and ciders, with a higher rate of duty paid on them if they want to sell them for takeaway. We are hopeful that the Government will remove these unnecessary restrictions soon.”

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said the government had to realise that on-trade venues were still operating “under immense pressure” and Martin McTague, national chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, said the move would offer an “extra revenue stream to mitigate the rising costs”.

UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls welcomed the move, and said that pavement licenses had constructed special areas for such sales outdoors and night czar Amy Lamé said it was “excellent news for our hard hit hospitality businesses”.

Concern had arisen that the 8,500 to 12,800 premises that currently sell takeaway pints would have to fill out forms to extend their licenses, with the potential for off premises sales being rejected by councils.

But councils, residents’ groups and drinks retailers had responded to the government prior to the change in decision, stating they would favour a return to pre-pandemic rules.

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