Pubs without beer gardens ‘will be able to let people drink in car parks’

Pubs which don’t have a traditional beer garden will be allowed to use car parks as an alternative outdoor drinking space, it has been confirmed.

From as early as April 12 in the Government’s outlined route from lockdown, loosened restrictions will allow hospitality venues to serve customers outdoors.

But it was looking as though some venues without a designated outdoor seating space would need to wait until mid-May when businesses can reopen for indoor service.

It’s now been confirmed that pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes can use any outdoor area – such as a car park – as makeshift outdoor drinking and dining spaces, Daily Star reports.

The initiative was first raised in June last year, but a spokesperson from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has clarified that the same rules will apply this spring.

Speaking when the policy was first announced, Communities Secretary and MP for Newark, Robert Jenrick, said: “I know we all look forward to seeing our pubs, cafes and restaurants open their doors again and I’m determined to give them a helping hand to get back on their feet and their staff back to work safely.

“That’s why we are introducing changes to make it quicker, easier and cheaper for them to set up outdoor seating and street stalls to serve food and drink.”

Business Secretary Alok Sharma added that re-opening the hospitality sector was a priority for the government: “Our pubs, restaurants and cafes are the lifeblood of high streets and town centres across the country and we are doing all we can to ensure they can bounce back as quickly and safely as possible.”

In an additional bid to help the hospitality industry, VAT was temporarily reduced from 20% to 5% on food purchases last July. In yesterday’s budget, chancellor Rishi Sunak carried forward the 5% rate for a further six months, with a new interim rate of 12.5% being applied for the six months after that.

But the Campaign for Pubs expressed disappointment that the VAT cut was just for food purchases, and hadn’t been extended to booze.

“While this helps some pubs, it does nothing for many non-food pubs while giving millions of pounds of tax relief to fast-food chains,” a spokesperson said.

The chancellor also extended business rates relief yesterday for all retail, leisure and hospitality businesses, meaning it now continues until the end of June.