Government says pubgoers must eat a 'proper meal' if they want to be served alcohol - a packet of crisps doesn't count

Customers wishing to drink alcohol in a pub that can only open as a restaurant under lockdown rules cannot simply order a bar snack, the government has clarified.

Pubs and restaurants in Kirkgate Market, Leeds

Pubgoers must order and consume a 'proper' sit-down meal to be served alcohol alongside it, and government minister Robert Jenrick has reiterated that a packet of crisps or nuts would not count as a meal.

The housing secretary suggested that as long as food items such as Cornish pasties came with a side of chips or salad and were served on a plate, to a table, they could be considered as 'a normal meal'.

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It comes as new restrictions placed on 'high alert' areas may force some pubs and bars to close unless they can operate as a restaurant - providing food with drinks.

Speaking to LBC on Tuesday, Mr Jenrick said that a meal must be 'substantial' and 'the sort of meal that you would expect to have as a midday meal or an evening meal'.

“The test in law is that a substantial meal is the sort of meal that you would expect to have as a midday meal or an evening meal,” he said.

“It would be like a main course, rather than, say, a packet of crisps or a plate of chips.”

He added that many licence-holders would be familiar with the measures as they were similar to previous rules regarding children

“If you would expect to go into that restaurant normally, or pub, and order a plated meal at the table of a Cornish pasty with chips or side salad or whatever it comes with, then that’s a normal meal,” he said.

“This isn’t actually as unusual a concept as you might feel.

“We’ve had this in law for licence-holders for a long time because it’s the same rule that has applied if you take a minor into a pub.

“You can’t do so unless they have a substantial meal alongside the alcoholic drinks, so people who actually run pubs and bars will be familiar with this and know how to operate it.”

The official guidance regarding food service also states that “a table meal is a meal eaten by a person seated at a table, or at a counter or other structure which serves the purposes of a table”.