Carry on supping: Social clubs in tier 3 keep serving alcohol amid loophole confusion

Colin Drury
·2 min read
 (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Fancy a pint in tier three? Get to your local WMC, it seems.

Social clubs — such as working men’s establishments and political party-affiliated bars — are continuing to serve booze under an apparent loophole in coronavirus restrictions, it has emerged.

Government guidelines say such clubs should not sell alcohol unless they also serve substantial meals.

But officials in Preston have all told establishments that they can carry on as normal because their premises certificates states that they “do not sell alcohol, they supply it to their members”.

In effect, the guidance, posted online by the city council, says such clubs are let off the rules because members are deemed to own the booze already.

Other councils, including Wirral, Fylde and Blackburn with Darwen, also appear to be operating under the same policy, reported the BBC.

And, while it is unclear just how many clubs are taking advantage of the loophole, the revelation it is happening has sparked outrage among pub landlords who say it has created an uneven playing field.

One, Darren Heggie, who runs the Havelock Inn in Blackburn, said he was astonished he could not legally have a drink in his own bar but could walk to the nearby Mill Hill Working Men’s Club “and get as drunk as I want”.

Writing on social media, he said he would now begin selling microwave meals at a pound a pop and offer customers a three-hour window to enjoy their dinner with drinks. “They need to be a substantial meal and they will be,” he said. “Cottage pie, curry, whatever”.

The British Beer and Pub Association said it was "aware of this inconsistency and [was] raising it with government to get clarity".

Emma McClarkin, chief executive, said: “Given the circumstances they find themselves in, it is vital, more than ever, that pubs have a level-playing field with clear guidance.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: "We are asking everybody to play their part to reduce potential periods of exposure in an indoor environment.

"For areas in very high local alert levels, any pub, bar or other business, including social or members clubs, cannot sell alcohol for consumption on the premises unless it is served alongside a substantial meal."

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