Covid-19: Drinkers in tier two 'could order Scotch egg' as substantial meal

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Drinkers in tier two areas of England could order a Scotch egg with their pint to keep in line with post-lockdown rules, a cabinet minister has said.

Under new restrictions from Wednesday, pubs in those high risk areas can only open if they function as a restaurant.

And alcohol can only be served as part of a "substantial meal".

Environment Secretary George Eustice told LBC Radio that Scotch eggs would constitute such a meal "if there were table service".

Downing Street has not ruled out tier two drinkers being able to order a Scotch egg, but would not set out the difference between a snack and a meal.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "I'm obviously not going to get into the detail of every possible meal.

"But we've been clear: bar snacks do not count as a substantial meal but it's well established practice in the hospitality industry what does."

Pubs and restaurants are currently closed across England, apart from for takeaways.

Mr Eustice said the "substantial meal" provision in tier two was "understood very much by the restaurant trade".

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... 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 are the post-lockdown rules?

When England's current lockdown ends, the rules will change according to where you live.

In tier one, medium level, people can meet inside or outside in groups of up to six.

In tier two regions, pubs and restaurants must shut at 23:00 GMT, with last orders an hour earlier.

You can only socialise inside with people you live with, or those in your support bubble if you live alone. Groups of up to six can meet outside, but social distancing must be adhered to.

In tier three, very high risk areas, you cannot mix with anyone outside your household either indoors or in pub gardens or private gardens. Hospitality venues - such as bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants - must stay closed, except for delivery and takeaway services.

Most of England is in tier two or three, with only Cornwall, the Isle of Wight and Isles of Scilly in tier one.

Mr Eustice added that there had been issues with pubs "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," he said.

On Sky News, Mr Eustice was asked whether people in tier two would have to leave the pub as soon as they had finished their meals.

The environment secretary said people could finish their drinks, but should not have a "small meal and then sit at the table all night ordering drinks".

It comes after Downing Street suggested drinkers visiting pubs in tier two regions would have to leave once they had finished their meal.

The government's latest guidance for hospitality in tier two states: "Venues must close unless they operate as if they were a restaurant.

"This means serving substantial meals, like a main lunchtime or evening meal. They may only serve alcohol as part of such a meal."

Meanwhile, pubs, restaurants and cafes in Wales will be banned from serving alcohol from Friday and will be forced to close at 18:00 GMT, under new rules to tackle a surge in coronavirus cases.

Cornish pasty

The concept of a "substantial meal" is not actually a new one in pubs, bars and restaurants.

It's an extension of the law that covers 16 and 17 year olds drinking alcohol in pubs with table meals.

In October, under England's previous three-tiered system, there was confusion over the definition of a "substantial meal".

Under those restrictions, it was only pubs and bars in tier three areas that faced extra curbs - and were forced to close unless they were serving substantial meals.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick responded by saying that a "plated meal" of a Cornish pasty with chips or a side salad would count as a "normal meal".