In a move to support the struggling hospitality sector, the UK government has decided to extend the relaxed licensing rules allowing pubs in England and Wales to continue selling takeaway pints.
The rules, initially introduced during the pandemic in 2020, were set to expire in September. However, after considering the significant impact these rules have had on the pub industry and the economy, the government has chosen to make them a permanent feature.
The introduction of the relaxed licensing rules during the pandemic was aimed at providing a lifeline to businesses in the hospitality sector, allowing them to serve customers through hatches. The rules were initially due to expire in September but have now been extended multiple times, reflecting the ongoing challenges faced by pubs and bars in their recovery from the pandemic.
According to reports, Chancellor Rishi Sunak stepped in to prevent the rules from expiring, acknowledging the importance of takeaway pints as a boost for businesses and the economy. Prime Minister Boris Johnson expressed his support for the pub industry and emphasized the positive impact of takeaway pints on both businesses and the economy, affirming that they are here to stay.
Challenges Faced by the Hospitality Sector
The hospitality sector has been grappling with various challenges in the aftermath of the pandemic. Rising energy and other costs, coupled with concerns over falling sales and the cost-of-living crisis, have posed significant obstacles for pubs and bars. The extension of the relaxed licensing rules will provide some respite to businesses in this sector, allowing them to generate additional revenue through the sale of takeaway pints.
Alcohol Duty Reforms
While the government’s decision to extend the relaxed licensing rules is a positive development for the pub industry, there have been other changes within the alcohol sector. Chancellor Rishi Sunak introduced reforms to the alcohol duty regime in 2021, aiming to encourage drinkers to consume alcohol in moderation. These reforms involve taxing all alcohol based on its strength, which has raised concerns among distillers and brewers. Whisky distillers have referred to the changes as a “hammer blow,” while brewers have warned about potential tax hikes on bottles and cans.
Despite the concerns raised by the alcohol duty reforms, the government asserts that the changes will benefit businesses and consumers alike, underlining its commitment to supporting British pubs. The Prime Minister describes the reforms as the most radical simplification of alcohol duties in over 140 years, made possible by Britain’s exit from the EU. While there may be certain implications for specific sectors within the alcohol industry, the overall objective is to promote responsible drinking and create a level playing field for businesses.