The words 'piss up' and 'brewery' come to mind

It was one of the more baffling rules of the latest lockdown and could have led to over 7 million pints of alcohol being poured down the drain. 

When the second lockdown was announced on Saturday, there was upset that, unlike the first lockdown back in March, while pubs and restaurants could offer take away food, they wouldn’t be allowed to sell alcohol to take away. 

The idea that supermarkets can sell the very thing that pubs do best when pubs are forced to close is ludicrous

Industry spokespeople ranging from CAMRA to night time economy advisor Sacha Lord, loudly protested this decision and the government has now done what it does best, a tyre screeching u-turn, changing the rules at the last minute yet again. Good.

2020 03 30 Sacha Lord And Andy Burnham
Sacha Lord (R with Andy Burnham) was one of those who protested against this piece of legislation

Contrary to the legislation hastily laid out earlier in the week - with rules that even the governments own ministers didn’t seem to be able to get right - English pubs and restaurants will now be able to sell takeaway beer during lockdown #2. 

The catch? It must be pre-ordered by phone (including text message), online or, er, by post and the customer must not actually enter the premises to collect it. 

This is supposedly to prevent people from gathering around the venues to drink the takeaway booze there and then - although supermarkets and brewery shops have no such restrictions in place.

The new rules have been published with less than two days to go before the lockdown commences on Thursday and will be voted on in the House of Commons today, Wednesday 4th. 

So while some are calling this a small victory - it's welcome change and will help to some extent - is this another example of this government, the self-styled party of business, disregarding the needs of small hospitality businesses? Many businesses had already launched last-ditch attempts to sell off remaining short shelf life alcohol to prevent it going to waste and many more are still trying to get their head around the rules as they were before this latest update. It's all about as clear as a hazy pale ale.

We talked to some local pub and restaurant owners to get their reactions. 

180625 Beer Week Beer
Brewery taps will still be allowed to offer walk-up takeway beer

“The idea that supermarkets can sell the very thing that pubs do best when pubs are forced to close is ludicrous," Says Esther Maylor, owner of The Eagle, Salford, 

"Especially when there are many people who don’t want to see the local independents go out of business this winter and want to support them. This is good news for fairness.”

Becky Flockheart of The Hillary Step in Whalley Range - who recently sold off a lot of their draft beer stock cheaply - said, “People working in the industry are living day by day, wondering ‘what now, what else are they going to throw at us’. We’re a tough bunch, though. We’ll get through this and we’re excited to see everyone on the other side”

Michael Clay, owner and head chef at Elnecot, had just got rid of a lot of draft beer cheap by encouraging to bring in empty milk bottles to fill up. Thankfully, he tells us, their main takeaway business over the last lockdown was for food with not such a demand for takeaway booze, so that money is still a useful cash injection for the months ahead - even if it just covers the cost of what they had already paid for when they were still expecting to stay open. The restaurant will be reviving its much praised takeaway Sunday roasts during lockdown #2 but Michael is another small business owner who is frustrated as having to constantly adapt to the changing rules. 

“It’s the leaked headlines and then having to wait for an announcement and to adapt every week to different things. It’s been tough and I think more and more business will go out of business. We’ll just have to do the best we can with the takeaway and then hopefully we’ll be in a position to reopen and see what sort of state everything is by then. Just hope for the best.”

CAMRA’s chairman Nik Antona said, “I’m delighted that the Government has listened to the concerns of thousands of CAMRA members, concerned pub-goers, and beer lovers who have e-mailed their MPs in the last 48 hours urging the Government to allow pubs and breweries to sell alcohol as takeaway during the second lockdown.

“This is a vital lifeline for local pubs and breweries across England over the coming four weeks, giving them a lifeline of income and allowing people to support local businesses.

“CAMRA continues to call on the Government to bring in a comprehensive, long-term financial support package to support all pubs and breweries through the lockdown and the tough months that will follow this winter. Without a sector-specific support package, we risk seeing thousands of pubs and breweries closing their doors for good.”

So it's good news, but an unnecessary amount of confusion has been caused again. If you can support your local indies during lockdown, please do.

Read next: Hawksmoor has launched a range of Cocktails at Home

Read again: ‘Pubs are being victimised and made a scapegoat,’ say Northern pub bosses