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Drinkers could order scotch egg as substantial meal, minister tells LBC
30 November 2020, 09:32 | Updated: 1 December 2020, 06:34
Scotch eggs "probably count" as a substantial meal under the new tier restrictions, the environment secretary has LBC.
Speaking to Nick Ferrari at breakfast on Monday, George Eustice said the rules on serving substantial meals with alcohol are "understood very much" by pubs and restaurants, but his comments are likely to raise eyebrows about what counts as 'substantial'.
"I think a Scotch egg would probably count as a substantial meal if there were table service," he said.
"This is a term that's understood in licensing - you can have the concept of a table license for alcohol that also requires you to serve a substantial meal."
Later in the day, Downing Street refused to rule out drinkers being able to order a Scotch egg with their pints in order to still enjoy pubs under Tier 2 restrictions.
The PM's official spokesman said buying alcohol will be permitted with a "substantial meal" but would not set out the line between a snack and a dinner.
"It's a principle that's well established in the hospitality industry and it's something they've been applying for some time," he said.
"We introduced the rule that you can only provide alcohol along with a substantial meal along with the first set of tiering. That remains the case under this set of tiering.
Pressed on whether the rules permit pints being served alongside sausage rolls, pork pies, or a ploughman's lunch, he said: "I'm obviously not going to get into the detail of every possible meal.
"But we've been clear: bar snacks do not count as a substantial meal but it's well-established practice in the hospitality industry what does."
Mr Eustice added that controversial regulations placing parts of England back into a three-tier system would end by February "if that's what Parliament wants".
It comes amid a row between the hospitality industry and ministers over the new restrictions.
In October, Housing Minister Robert Jenrick told Nick Ferrari that a Cornish pasty wouldn’t be a substantial meal unless it was served with chips or a side salad.
"If you would expect to go into that restaurant or pub normally and order a plated meal, at the table of a Cornish pasty with chips or side salad or whatever it comes with, then that's a normal meal," the Housing Secretary said.
Elsewhere, Michelle Gilmore, a pub landlord in Wiltshire, told LBC she was losing £1,800 a month to keep the building closed, and said current grants were not sustainable.
"It's a massive loss for everyone," she said, "now we're relying on bank loans to cover those losses."
Hospitality leaders last week said their industry is being "thrown to the wolves" after it was announced England will be hit with tougher tier restrictions post-lockdown.
Swathes of the North of England were told they would be plunged into the highest tier of restrictions from December 2, closing pubs and restaurants.
This week will stop 98% of England's hospitality sector from doing business as usual at a cost of up to £7.8 billion, new research suggests.
Jobs site Caterer.com estimated that pent-up demand for meals and drinks could have delivered as much as £15.9 billion to the UK economy.
A survey of more than 2,000 adults indicated that after four weeks at home, the public is eager to return to hospitality venues.
Spokesman Neil Pattison said: "It's clear that the public is incredibly keen to get back to enjoying hospitality venues, but this analysis reveals just how damaging the new Government restrictions will be for our sector.
"The impact of the tighter tiered system - which will force businesses in Tier 3 to remain closed unless they offer takeaway, and only allow those that serve food to operate in Tier 2 - will not only lead to a multi-billion pound loss for the sector but could force many thousands of our talented workforce to look elsewhere for work.
"We must see increased financial support from the Government immediately, and greater flexibility in restrictions that will allow businesses to continue to trade."