High street off-licences are raising a glass to the government after they were added to the list of ‘essential’ retail outlets that can remain open for business during the coronavirus pandemic.
Off-licences were added to the list after the government ordered pubs and bars to close, and following reports that supermarkets’ stocks of beers, wines and spirits were running dangerously low. This is due, in part, to supermarkets prioritizing fresh food over alcohol in their supply chains.
Off-licences are “essential”
The revised list of essential retailers, put together by the Cabinet Office, now includes “off-licences and licensed shops selling alcohol, including those within breweries” and mirrors steps taken in other European countries.
In light of the government u-turn, pubs are now lobbying for blanket permission to launch takeaway alcohol services – even if they don’t hold a licence to sell drinks for consumption off-premises.
Pubs lobby the government
If the government were to grant them temporary permission to do so, all pubs, bars and breweries could behave like off-licences, either delivering drinks or allowing customers to pick them up.
The food ordering service Deliveroo said it would be keen to help pubs and brewery taprooms sell to people stuck at home if they won permission to do so.
Shops exempt from the Government’s ban now include food retailers, pharmacies, hardware stores, corner shops, petrol stations, shops in hospitals, post offices, banks, newsagents, launderettes and pet shops.
Non-essential stores face unlimited fines
Shops deemed non-essential have been ordered to shut. These include shops selling clothing, books and electricals, as well as hairdressers, bed and breakfasts, and markets, whether they are indoors or outdoors.
The Government said that shops which open in defiance of the ban could be prosecuted by trading standards officers who have the power to issue “potentially unlimited fines”.