Loophole to Tier 2 'substantial meal' rule at Brighton pub
A LANDLORD has found a loophole in the government's Tier 2 Covid rule that pubs can only serve alcohol with food - by offering a pint called "Substantial Meal".
The "hearty, filling and flavoursome" ale is a speciality of the "Made Up Brewery", a tongue-in-cheek pump clip at the Caxton Arms in North Gardens, Brighton, claims.
Landlord Brett Mendoza attached the clip as a joke before posting a picture of the caveat-crushing sign on social media.
And it has since attracted plenty of attention, being shared thousands of times and spoken about on Good Morning Britain.
The appeal of the the tasty tipple is that it could provide parched patrons with a way to enjoy a pint without the obligatory meal that goes with it, under new government restrictions.
Last week it was revealed that Brighton and Hove will be in Tier 2 when the national lockdown ends on Wednesday.
These new rules mean pubs are allowed to reopen, but they can only serve alcohol alongside substantial meals.
"It's a farcical situation," Mr Mendoza said.
"No one knows what a substantial meal is. There are only a couple of days to go until the rule comes in now, and people still don't know."
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The 40-year-old was speaking to a fellow landlord about the unclear restrictions last week when the idea came to him.
"We were talking about what a substantial meal actually is," he said.
"So I printed this off as a joke, attached it on top of one of our other beer pumps and posted it on social media.
"Next thing I know it's been shared thousands of times, I don't even know how many people have seen it now.
"My best friend texted me and said that Ben Shepherd was talking about it on Good Morning Britain, and they gave us a namecheck.
"And friends around the country have tagged me when people have posted it on social media groups in Scotland and the West Country.
"It took off way more than I thought it would."
Despite plenty of interest, with several people already attempting to order bottles of the ale as a Christmas gift, the beer is (for the timebeing) a work of fiction.
"It's not a real beer," Mr Mendoza said.
"I think one brewery has done it, somebody sent me a picture of their beer saying, 'they've nicked your idea'."
Triple Point Brewing in Sheffield has released a Substantial Meal IPA, with profits from sales going to FareShare – the UK's largest charity fighting hunger and food waste.
The coronavirus crisis and resulting government restrcitions have presented a seemingly endless stream of challenges for pubs across the UK to overcome since the first lockdown measures were introduced in March.
Mr Mendoza is preparing to reopen the Caxton Arms on Thursday, but he says there is still a lot of uncertainty facing him and others in his unenviable position.
"I'm excited to reopen, but with the restrictions meaning there can only be one household per table, we don't know if anyone will come.
"You go the the pub to be with your mates, and you can't do that at the moment - it's a terrible, terrible time for the pub trade.
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"We have jumped through hoops to make our venues Covid-secure, and still we get picked on.
"You can wander into a supermarket with who knows how many people, all touching things and bumping into each other.
"I love football, but it seems weird that 2,000 people can go to the Amex but people can't go to the pub with a mate.
"November and December have counted for 25 per cent of our takings for the entire year in the past, but these restrictions will reduce our capacity and takings by 75 per cent.
"We are hoping we will go down to Tier 1 and be able to have more people inside soon."
Mr Mendoza said he was lucky that the brewery he worked for, Shepherd Neame, the oldest in Britain, had reduced his rent to 40 per cent.
But the landlord said that, with Tier 2 restrictions in place, the Caxton Arms would be fortunate to scrape even over the Christmas period.
"Hopefully we will lose less than we would by staying closed," he said.
"Even if we were full, with one household per table we might not make a profit."
Mr Mendoza said there is also confusion over government support grants provided to help pubs at this time, and he remains unsure when they will be made available to sites across the country.
He said: "It's tough at the moment. There is a grey area over the government grants.
"We were invited to apply for the grant last weekend, which we have done. You get the confirmation to say you can get one, but it doesn't say when you get the money.
"We are in week four of lockdown now and the pub industry was on its knees even before we were forced to close again, even though they have been proven to be a safe place to be.
"Pubs have been given so many hoops to jump through to make sure we are Covid-secure, then we are still told to close.
"There are loads of brilliant landlords and amazing pub staff in Brighton and Hove who could lose their jobs.
"Pubs are one of the most British things there is, I don't want to see any lost."