Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick 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”.
It comes as new restrictions placed on “very high alert” areas in the UK 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 minors.
Downing Street also defended the rules around pubs being allowed to sell alcohol with meals in Tier 3 lockdown areas.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said the concept of a substantial meal dates back to the 2003 Licensing Act.
The spokesman said: “This is something which pubs and restaurants are entirely familiar with and also, as they have been throughout, I’m sure the public will exercise their own good judgment and common sense.”
Mr Jenrick continued: “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.
“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”.