Lockdown easing plan to reopen pubs without serving alcohol branded 'ridiculous'
The idea of reopening pubs without serving alcohol when the coronavirus lockdown eases has been branded “ridiculous” by a Labour MP.
Shadow business minister Lucy Powell attacked the suggestion of “dry pubs”, a proposal reportedly being considered by the government when premises are allowed to reopen.
The Daily Telegraph reported on Saturday that one option being discussed is that pubs and restaurants could reopen in April if they agreed not to sell alcohol.
But Powell said on Tuesday: “We can’t have ridiculous things that we’ve seen speculated about with pubs saying they can reopen but without serving alcohol.”
Watch: Labour MP says COVID support for businesses should be extended
She told BBC Breakfast: “They (businesses) need to know the economic support that will sit alongside the public health measures. At the moment they diverge quite considerably.
“And we need to make sure for businesses that that route map to reopening allows businesses to open in a viable way.”
Powell urged the government to extend business support packages for as long as coronavirus restrictions are in place.
She said support for businesses will come to an end in “one big bombshell” at the beginning of April.
“That could lead to a huge number of businesses going bust, businesses insolvencies and job losses,” she said.
“We want the government to extend business rate holiday for at least six months, to carry on with the cut in VAT for hospitality and extend the furlough scheme for as long as public health restrictions are in place.
“We supported businesses and jobs for the last 12 months, so it makes no economic sense to now cut off support at this final stage because then all that previous investment will have gone to waste.”
On Saturday, Powell called the idea of dry pubs “unviable”.
She said: “These half measures would be deeply damaging for pubs and hospitality.
“Ideas like this could see COVID cases rise and business thrown under the bus needlessly.
“The vaccine gives us a way out – the last thing businesses need now is ridiculous speculation about reopening under unviable terms.”
A senior government source dismissed the idea, telling the PA news agency: “We are not going to open pubs that can’t sell booze. What would be the point of that?”
The Sun has reported that ministers are preparing to allow pubs to serve takeaway pints in April before fully reopening in May.
It has also been reported by The Times that pubs will no longer have to serve alcohol with a substantial meal, dubbed the “Scotch egg rule”, when they reopen after England’s third national lockdown.
Last week, pubs said 87 million pints of beer have been thrown away because of lockdowns.
Watch: How many pubs have closed their doors because of COVID?