Pub goers in Tier 2 areas could get around restrictions in December by ordering a scotch egg with their pint, a Cabinet minister has suggested.
Environment Secretary George Eustice has said that the snack would count as a “substantial meal” under the new three tier system, which will come into effect across England from Wednesday 2 December.
New pub rules
Under the new tier system, pubs in Tier 2 areas will only be allowed to open if they operate as a restaurant. This means that pubs can only serve alcohol with a “substantial meal.”
More than 57 per cent of England’s population will fall into this tier, while 41 per cent have been placed into Tier 3, under which pubs cannot open to customers at all, with only takeaway and delivery service allowed.
Pubs in Tier 2 must call last orders at 10pm, with all customers required to finish their food and drinks by 11pm.
The government’s guidance on what constitutes a substantial meal has been quite vague, with Mr Eustice suggesting that something as small as a Scotch egg would count.
Speaking on LBC radio, he said, “I think a Scotch egg probably would count as a substantial meal if there were table service.
“Often that might be as a starter but yes I think it would, but this is a term that’s understood in licensing since it is, you can have the concept of a table licence for alcohol that also requires you to serve a substantial meal. That is the model that is being followed.”
What counts as a substantial meal?
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has previously defined a “substantial meal” as something you would “expect to have as a midday meal or an evening meal” under the old tier system.
However, he appeared to rule out traditional pub snacks such as a packet of crisps, or a side order of chips.
Mr Jenrick suggested that a Cornish pasty on its own would also not count as a substantial meal, unless it was served at a table and on a plate with a side, such as a chips or a salad.
He said, “If you would expect to go into that restaurant normally, or pub, 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 new Covid-19 winter plan now defines a “substantial meal” as a full breakfast, main lunchtime, or evening meal.
However, the rules are still unclear, with the comments from Mr Eustice suggesting snack foods, such as scotch eggs, could now be counted as a meal.
On the “substantial meal” rule, Mr Eustice added, “The evidence has been that some of the challenges we have had with pubs were where you had large groups of people congregating and actually not maintaining social distancing, they were just drinking.
“They were more likely to maintain social distancing sat down and having a meal.
“The measures we’re taking are all about trying to break the cycle of infection and that doesn’t mean that every rule that we introduce and every requirement we put on people is perfectly consistent or might even be considered perfectly fair – indeed, they won’t be.”