'This means a slow death for us now': Social clubs to close due to u-turn in government guidance

Yesterday, the Post reported that social clubs in Preston could serve alcohol to their members only.

Thursday, 29th October 2020, 3:46 pm
Alan Hamilton is chairman of St Gregory's social club, Blackpool Road

But clubs who believed they could open to sell alcohol without serving meals have now been told they will need to close by the latest Government guidance.

In an apparent u-turn, the Department of Health has confirmed that the sale of alcohol is prohibited to anyone not buying an accompanying meal in any bar, pub or other business - including social clubs.

Pubs and bars in areas where the highest coronavirus alert level is in place have to remain closed unless they serve substantial meals, but some social clubs were continuing to serve alcohol without food.

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Preston city council guidance stated that by holding a club premises certificate, clubs would be able to serve alcohol without a substantial meal, unlike neighbouring pubs and bars that have closed under tier three restrictions.

Alan Hamilton, chairman of St Gregory's social club, Blackpool Road, has challenged Preston city council on their 'unclear' and 'hidden' guidance about the matter.

He was determined to remain open unless advised by the council to close.

He said: "I was informed about the new statement saying social clubs should function in sync with the pubs, but was waiting for the council to update us by their website or directly that we have to shut.

The New Meadow Street social club only reopened earlier this week, and may have to close their doors again under new rules

"Being told that we have to close means a slow death for us now. We are not eligible for any grants or support because as a club of the church, we don't pay business rates.

"It is so disappointing and will really bury us because there will be no income, but all of our expenses will still be there meaning eventually it will shut us for good.

"We just haven't got a clue what was going on, we were continuing to operate to do so until told otherwise because it was an opportunity for me to still get some final revenue."

Just yesterday, Alan told The Post that it was 'great and welcome news' that social clubs were told that their club premises certificate provided a way to serve alcohol to members, without the need for a substantial meal.

But he still feared for the future of St Gregory's, adding that many of the members were elderly and too afraid to come out yet due to the virus.

Guidance on the Preston city council website stipulated last week that volunteer and social clubs were able to open and serve alcohol without a 'substantial' meal.

And New Meadow Street Labour club, North Road, also announced their reopening earlier this week, which was met with some confusion on social media.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “For areas in Tier 3, any pub, bar or other business, including social or members clubs, cannot sell alcohol for consumption on the premises unless it is served alongside a substantial meal.

“We are asking everybody to play their part to reduce potential periods of exposure in an indoor environment.”

Councillor Peter Moss, Deputy Leader of Preston City Council and Cabinet Member for Planning and Regulation, said: "We take our role in supporting businesses to meet regulations and enforcing where they choose not to, very seriously.

"This has become increasingly difficult over the last number of months with multiple updates to regulations implemented at speed and we have worked closely with partners such as the police and other councils to take as consistent an approach as possible."

“Following discussions with the government we understand regulations will be amended so that all venues providing alcohol, including private member clubs, may only do so when purchased with a substantial meal.

"As soon as the full information is available we will ensure our website and advice is updated."