What does a substantial meal mean?
Under the post-lockdown guidance, pubs in Tier 2 areas can only stay open if they can function as a restaurant, and alcohol can only be served with a substantial meal, but there is confusion over what constitutes a substantial meal.
The government guidelines describe it as “a full breakfast, main lunchtime or evening meal”, but ministers have added their own interpretations to the debate. Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has said that pub snacks such as crisps or a side of chips would not count, but that a Cornish pasty might be considered a “normal meal” if it came on a plate with salad or chips.
Environment Secretary George Eustice, meanwhile, told LBC that “a Scotch egg probably would count as a substantial meal if there were table service, and often that might be as a starter.”
The confusion leaves chefs and landlords scrambling to rewrite menus and place orders for supplies as they plan their reopening.
Can I have a drink after my meal?
The guidelines do not state how much alcohol is allowed to be served with meals, and recent statements about how long customers can remain at the pub or restaurant are conflicting.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman has said that there will be “no lingering” allowed and that customers could no longer stay “once the meal is finished”. The Local Government Association (LGA) has suggested a two-hour turnaround is the “maximum amount of time for a meal of multiple courses”.
But George Eustice has said that customers at restaurants and pubs in Tier 2 will be allowed to finish their drinks. He told Sky News, “I think you can finish your drink provided you’re at a table and you’ve had a drink with a meal then, of course, you can finish your drink as well.
“What you probably couldn’t do is have a small meal and then sit at the table all night ordering drink.”
With such a lack of clarity, it may be down to landlords and restaurant managers themselves to police tables. The LGA says that “enforcement will be targeted at those premises which are clearly stretching things too far by allowing customers to stay well beyond the duration of a meal and in effect facilitating longer drinking sessions”.
Can I travel to pubs in different tiers?
While there are no restrictions on movement within Tier 1 areas, people in Tier 2 are advised to reduce the number of journeys they make within their own areas where possible. Walking and cycling is recommended if travel is necessary.
In Tier 3, meanwhile, the new restrictions state that people should try to avoid travelling outside the ‘very high’ area they are in, other than for things like work, education, or to meet caring responsibilities – meaning that Tier 3 residents should not visit pubs in the lower tiers.