Sunderland pubs stuck in 'grey area' over sales of alcohol in Lockdown 3

Pubs have been left in a “grey area” over alcohol sales due to the new Lockdown 3 restrictions.

Wednesday, 6th January 2021, 5:33 pm

As the country was plunged into another lockdown, which came into effect on January 5, the hospitality industry had to come to grips with yet another round of restrictions – with new rules around the sale of takeaway alcohol causing the most problems for city publicans.

Lockdown 3 regulations state that pubs and restaurants, while permitted to still offer takeaway and click & collect food, cannot offer that service for alcohol. Alcohol from such premises can only be delivered.

The new rules only allow for the takeaway and click & collect sale of alcohol from off-licences and licenced shops, including breweries.

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Walter Veti at The Saltgrass in Deptford.
Walter Veti at The Saltgrass in Deptford.

It’s believed that the sale of open pints during the previous tiers system led to people, at locations across the country, congregating outside and not adhering to social distancing.

For Sunderland publican Walter Veti, who owns the historic Saltgrass pub in Deptford, it’s a ruling which has exacerbated an already difficult time.

Takeaway sales, of mini kegs and cocktail jars, which are all sealed, collected from the pub, and consumed at home, has allowed his business to survive.

His specific licence is an off-licence licence so he’s awaiting clarity from Sunderland City Council on whether he can continue to sell alcohol to be taken away. In the meantime, he’s working on a delivery model for sales of alcohol including popular brews from the likes of Tiny Rebel.

The Mountain Daisy in Hylton Road

"It’s a bit of grey area at the minute,” he explained. “Last year, to give pubs a fighting chance, temporary licences were issued to allow for the sale of open pints for takeaway, which I believe has been taken away now. Our existing licence, however, always had an off-licence attached to it, which I’m awaiting clarification on.

“I understand the problems with open pints, but our takeaway drinks have always been sealed for people to consume at home. At the end of the day, we would rather trade than have to rely on grants which, although are welcome, are a drop in the ocean to what you could make in sales."

The Mountain Daisy in Hylton Road was taken over in November last year by Scott Allsop and his business partner. Although they haven’t been able to open the landmark pub, which dates back to 1901, fully they have been doing takeaway food and alcohol for people to enjoy at home, which has been doing well.

The sudden clamp down on takeaway alcohol means they will be left with stock that will soon go out of date.

Scott said: “I feel it’s really disappointing that our trade has been singled out. Pubs are struggling enough without having further restrictions placed on us. I understand one of the reasons is people congregating to drink what they have bought, but feel people can do this with alcohol bought from shops and supermarkets.

"I don't see how alcohol bought from pubs is any different. We sell 3 litre and 5 litre boxes intended to give people access to draught beers/lagers/cider in the comfort of their own home. Every box has been collected by customers driving who have then gone home. I see no difference in this than someone buying alcohol from their local shop.”

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