'Scrap substantial meal rule': Owner of country pub urges action
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A pub landlord in a Norfolk village is calling on the government to scrap having to serve food with alcohol when Covid restrictions ease.
Paul Edwards, who runs the Red Lion in Caston, near Attleborough, said before the latest lockdown, he had seen a drop in customer footfall and blamed the ‘substantial meal' rule.
Mr Edwards was speaking as 92pc of 80 rural publicans also said they wanted to see an end to the 'substantial meal' rule, brought in as part of Tier two restrictions.
And just 34pc reckoned they could last being shut until the summer.
Mr Edwards said: "It's really hard for pubs in the countryside which rely on locals who want to come in for a few drinks. We do serve food but we do have a number of people who don't want to have a meal.
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"Breckland Council has been brilliant in terms of financial grants and I've furloughed most of my staff and am doing fish and chip takeaways myself but we just want to be able to open.
"Operating the rule of six and table service was fine but not everyone wants a substantial meal."
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His comments came as the Countryside Alliance , a national rural campaigning organisation, revealed the results from its recent nationwide rural pubs survey.
It found 57pc of publicans said regulars stopped coming to their pubs when the rule was in place and 82pc saw a reduction in overall footfall.
The Alliance's findings also showed 70pc of the 80 publicans thought they could keep business going if restrictions were lifted by April but this number halved if lockdown was going to last until June.
One publican said: “We need positive help, VAT to stay at 5pc for at least two years, rates to be cut by 50pc for the same length of time.” Another warned: “This is causing severe mental health/isolation issues in rural areas.”
Mo Metcalf-Fisher of the Countryside Alliance spokesman said: "Understandably, the underlying anxieties and hurt caused by Covid-19 across the pub industry remain very much alive. Pubs are at the forefront of their communities up and down the countryside and their loss would be both catastrophic and irreversible."