Pub landlord gets round Covid Tier 2 rules to serve thirsty customers

Need a substantial meal? Just add hot water! Pub landlord gets round Covid Tier 2 rules to serve thirsty customers by selling £3.50 instant dishes

  • Brian Hall serving instant meals at Who’d A Thought it pub in Plumstead, London
  • Landlord offering new menu so that his pub can continue to run amid pandemic 
  • Government have said pubs in Tier 2 can only sell alcohol with ‘substantial meal’

A savvy pub landlord is beating the Tier 2 restrictions by adding boiling water to instant dishes and serving them as ‘substantial’ meals. 

Brian Hall, 65, is reopening the Who’d A Thought It pub in Plumstead, London, by offering a new menu consisting of meals selling for £3.50.

Mr Hall, who does not have a kitchen at his venue, described how he boiled a kettle when one of his punters ordered the instant dish in an effort to get round the restrictions preventing him from opening his so-called ‘wet pub’.

It comes after the Government last week announced that landlords in Tier 2 could only sell alcoholic beverages with a ‘substantial meal’.

Pub landlord Brian Hall, 65, reopened the Who’d A Thought It pub in Plumstead, London, by offering his with instant meals by Huel 

The meals, which are a part of Huel’s Hot & Savoury instant-meal range, allow the landlord to continue to serve alcoholic beverages under the Tier 2 restrictions

The landlord, who explained that he would have lost £5,000 per week in lost revenue had he remained shut, said the food he is serving from Huel’s Hot & Savoury instant-meal range includes Thai Green Curry, Mexican Chilli and Tomato & Herb.       

He said: ‘We’re a proper local’s pub and being closed has been tough for our regulars, especially the old boys who come down most days for a pint and a chat.

‘We serve 1,000 pints a week, but food was never our thing and without a kitchen we thought we’d never be able to meet the ‘substantial meals’ requirement.

‘Huel Hot & Savoury is a pretty clever way to hack the system as all you need is a kettle, a bowl and a spoon.

‘It’s a hell of a lot healthier than the packet of peanuts our regulars are used to having with their pint and if it means we can get our doors open in the run up to Christmas then we’re all for it.’

Last week the Beer & Pub association estimated that 14,000 of the 21,000 pubs in Tier Two would remain closed because they could not serve meals or do not believe it’s financially viable to open.

Huel says its Hot & Savoury range may be a solution, allowing other pubs to reopen their doors ‘by serving bowls of nutritionally complete food alongside their punter’s favourite pint’. 

Mr Hall described how he boiled a kettle when one of his punters ordered the instant dish to get around the current restrictions

The landlord said serving the instant dishes meant he could keep his doors open in the run up to Christmas 

The brand describes each meal in the range as ‘nutritionally complete and made with delicious whole food and natural ingredients, including 24 grams of plant-based protein and all 26 essential vitamins and minerals’. 

Under the new guidelines announced last week landlords in Tier 2 areas can only sell alcoholic beverages with a ‘substantial meal’. 

Those that just sell alcohol must close under ‘tier three’, the toughest new measures. 

But the rules left landlords at kitchen-less pubs facing a dilemma – with some turning to serving takeaway food in a bid to keep the pints flowing.   

A substantial meal is defined by the Government as a ‘full breakfast, main lunchtime or evening meal’ – with Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick claiming a pasty on its own doesn’t count, but when served with chips and salad it does. 

What can you do in a pub in each tier? 

  • Tier 1 – Pubs are open for alcohol or food with people from different households allowed to sit together.
  • Tier 2 – Pubs can only serve alcohol with a ‘substantial meal’. People from different households can only sit together outside, and must follow the ‘rule of six’. Those sitting inside the pub at the same table must be from the same household.
  • Tier 3 – Pubs are closed for everything but takeaway.

But landlords accused the Government of providing ‘no clarity’ on the substantial meal rule.

Toby Perkins, Labour MP for Chesterfield, said: ‘It’s not entirely clear if you had a sausage roll with a bowl of chips, would that be substantial? I’m not clear on that.’  

Following the move, more than 50 pubs and breweries including Greene King, Heineken and Budweiser pleaded with the Government to extend support to avoid thousands of local venues going bust.

In a letter to the Chancellor Rishi Sunak they said: ‘It would be nothing less than heart-breaking if, having survived through the last nine months, pubs now face ruin with the end of the pandemic in sight.

‘The support the Government has given us up to this point would all be for nothing, a colossal waste of resources. The looming disaster is avoidable, but only if you act now.’

Last week Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin announced he would shut down more than 50 of his pubs across Wales after the First Minister banned the sale of alcohol in bars and restaurants following a sharp uptick in infections, especially among the under-25s.

The pub chain founder accused the First Minister of ‘talking cobblers’ about the coronavirus health risks and ruled out opening his pubs just to sell food and soft drinks in Wales, explaining it would ‘not be viable to open’. 

Under the new guidelines, pubs, bars and restaurants will only be allowed to remain open until 6pm and operate as takeaways afterwards. And they will not be allowed to serve alcoholic drinks under a scheme like that in place in Scotland for weeks.

The move prompted bosses to issue a rallying cry and urge the Welsh government to provide ‘proof’ that their customers are more likely to catch Covid-19 in their establishments.

Mr Martin said: ‘I don’t want to wind the Welsh up by criticising their First Minister, but he is talking cobblers.

‘There is very good evidence that lockdowns, and this is a type of lockdown, simply don’t work. There is lots of examples of that throughout the world. This scare tactic that so many people are going to die are nonsense in my opinion.’

Mr Martin went on to say it would not be viable for his business to remain open amid the restrictions.

He continued: ‘We are closing. It will not be viable to open. We tried it in Scotland when they brought in similar rules to Wales for a few weeks, but it was ruinously expensive.

‘You can open for food, which is quite a big percentage of our trade, but what happens is a lot of people go out for a glass of wine, or a pint with a meal, so you lose a lot of your food sales as well. Overall, it is not viable.’

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