Lockdown: Harrogate's independent bars welcome new Government clarification but raise fears over future survival

Harrogate's independent bars say a Government concession on selling takeaway drinks during the new lockdown may not be enough if they have to suffer a prolonged closure of the food and drinks sector.

Monday, 9th November 2020, 3:39 pm
Updated Monday, 9th November 2020, 3:42 pm
Roosters taproom in Harrogate which is now closed. But the new Government rules mean the Harrogate independent brewery is allowed to offer a delivery and takeaway service.

Unlike the first full lockdown of March to May, bars and pubs are on a level playing field with supermarkets and off-licences in terms of takeaway drinks this time around.

But this should not be seen as a return to the partial easing of rules in June which saw people gathered outside bars in Harrogate town centre drinking, leading to problems for the authorities.

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson made this plain in the latest clarification over Lockdown 2.0.

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Initially, the Government announced that the second lockdown would see a ban placed on businesses selling takeaway alcohol.

Now it says customers can order takeaway pints from their local pubs.

But customers will have to pre-order their drink online, or by phone or post, to then be collect directly from the pub or delivered to their door.

And they are not permitted to enter a pub or bar's premises.

Owner Toby Smith of Major Tom's Social bar said it was good that something was being done to support the independents.

He, for one, would be running a pizza takeout service where customers pick a time slot and place an order via the craft beer bar's website.

Major Tom's, which is located on The Ginnel off Parliament Street, will also be selling its own pre-made vac packed pizzas for people to cook at home at their own leisure.

But Ian Fozard, whose family owns and runs Roosters, Harrogate's biggest craft beer brewery and taproom, said not nearly enough was being done to support the sector overall.

Mr Fozard, who is national chairman of The Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA), said: "It is good that the Government have seen sense and agreed to put pubs and breweries on a level playing field with supermarkets and off-licences for takeaway drinks.

"It would have been hugely unfair not to have done so.

Will it be a panacea for pubs and breweries? I doubt it.

"To use the phrase “every little helps” is true but the pub and small brewery sector can’t survive for long on these scraps."

Confusion over the new rules is serving to create another irritation to the drinks industry in Harrogate.

Simon Cotton, group managing director of HRH Group managing the likes of The Fat Badger bar and the Yorkshire Hotel in Harrogate, said: "I think all this does is add further confusion to an already highly confusing set of rules that seem to now change so often it is almost impossible to expect every business, every member of the public and even every local authority to be able to keep up with.

"The alcohol ruling is particularly misleading about entering the premises to collect and takeaway, as our interpretation is that this relates to not entering a takeaway after 10pm as per the rules under the previous curfew.

"Either way, I cannot see the authorities wanting to see any drinking on the streets so collecting alcohol inside the door or outside, it’s not going to make a difference. "

Mr Cotton said he would be ensuring that any drinks purchased with a takeaway were for home consumption only.

But, in general, he favoured a more nuanced approach to tackling Covid and a return to the previous tier system abandoned when a national lockdown was order until from last week to December 2, at least.

Mr Cotton said: "We’re ensuring that any drinks purchased with a takeaway is for home consumption only as this is how we have interpreted the point and purpose of the rules.

"Personally, I’d like to see the new lockdown lifted and a return to the tier system which, I believe, was starting to show good results but had not been given a real chance to prove itself.

"With today’s positive announcement about a vaccine, the quicker we get businesses back open to protect themselves against a harsh winter of poor revenues, the better."

Roosters also fears the Government's move on takeway drinks does not go far enough to take the beer industry through the winter ahead, especially small breweries.

Ian Fozard said: "I’m concerned at the long term damage to the sector if there were to be a prolonged lockdown and restrictions on opening hours.

"While the pub and retail sector have had business rates holidays and cash grants, there’s been no Government help for the small brewing sector which relies heavily on a vibrant hospitality sector."