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CAMRA and Sheffield Council call for review of ban on pub takeaways

The government ban on pubs selling sealed takeaway containers – when supermarkets and off-licences can sell alcohol to take away – is grossly unfair and could do huge damage to the sector, says Sheffield and District CAMRA Pubs Officer, Dave Pickersgill.

Abbeydale Brewery casks
Abbeydale Brewery

Our pubs are not being treated equally during the current national lockdown. Hospitality venues are only able to sell alcohol via delivery, while other retail outlets – for example, off-licenses and supermarkets – can provide takeaway alcohol.

Takeaway sales, in sealed containers, were a lifeline for pubs during previous lockdowns, offering an opportunity to keep the doors open, continue to employ staff and welcome customers safely. Restricting that route to market gives an unfair advantage to other outlets and could be a death knell for many pubs.

We have a situation in which customers are visiting their local pub to purchase takeaway food, then visiting a second outlet for their accompanying drink. Allowing pubs to provide ‘off-sales’ could immediately lessen the risk of Covid transmission by reducing the distance travelled and the number of retail outlets visited.

"I don't understand the ban on takeaway sales,” says Conor Smith, Landlord of the Dog & Partridge in Trippet Lane. “While it would never replace ‘normal’ trading, at least it provides some revenue, and keeps contact with customers and suppliers. If it can be done safely, surely it’s no riskier than a supermarket or corner shop.”

Kane Yeardley, Managing Director of True North Brew Co, which manages 12 local pubs, including The Forum and The Broadfield, is more succinct: “Pubs need any sales they can get. Every penny counts.”

Whilst we all understand the need for the new restrictions, the Government should also realise the immense value of pubs to communities, individuals, and the economy – and it should protect them.

Laura Rangeley, Marketing Manager at Abbeydale Brewery, says customers “dealt admirably” with all of the changes hospitality venues were required to bring in last year.

“It seems grossly unfair that yet more obstacles have been placed in the way for only these businesses, when they have worked so hard to demonstrate they can operate safely within the restrictions.”

Pubs, bars and breweries deserve a long-term, dedicated and sector-specific financial support package to make sure they do not have to close for good before restrictions start to be lifted and they can resume operating. They have fixed costs and have suffered many months of little income. The grants announced so far by the Chancellor have been welcome, but they will not be enough to help our pubs to survive.

Dog and Partridge 2020 DP

The Dog & Partridge, Trippet Lane.

“The government grants and support aren’t enough to cover the overheads of pubs even when they are closed,” notes Louise Singleton, Landlady of the Kelham Island Tavern. “Off-sales was a way of topping up in order for us to survive. In addition, pubs selling off-sales are more likely to support small and local suppliers.”

Both Sheffield City Council and the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) are calling on the Government to reconsider their ban on the sale of takeaway alcohol by hospitality venues. Pubs are essential to our local economy and we should be doing all we can to support them to survive through these difficult times, not hindering them.

As CAMRA’s National Chairman, Nik Antona, puts it: “The least the Government can do is take a sensible approach, think again and allow community pubs to sell takeaway products.

“No-one wants to see drinking in the streets during a lockdown, but allowing pubs to sell alcohol in sealed containers for people to take home – just like shops do – would be completely reasonable.”

Councillor Mazher Iqbal, Cabinet Member for Business and Investment at Sheffield Council, said that the current restrictions put pubs at “an unfair disadvantage”.

Councillor Julie Grocutt, Cabinet Member for Planning and Development, added: “Whilst we appreciate the assessed risk of people congregating outside venues, our landlords are taking every effort to trade responsibly, putting the necessary measures in place, and we will continue to support them to make sure they remain Covid-secure while operating.”

Pub owners have worked hard to continue trading in extremely difficult circumstances. But if they are unable to offer any kind of service then many will close, resulting in further unemployment, in Sheffield and beyond. The Government must review this policy as a matter of urgency to ensure that our hospitality economy will be in a position to thrive when it is safe to lift restrictions.

As Conor at Dog and Partridge commented: “I just hope enough pubs survive to service the enormous party that will inevitably happen when the ‘all clear’ is blown!”

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