Preston pub Ships and Giggles serves free food to help it stay open during Tier 3 lockdown
A popular bar in the heart of Preston's student quarter is offering its customers free food to help it stay open during lockdown.
The Ships and Giggles in Fylde Road began dishing out free and unlimited platters of chicken wings and chips after the city was plunged into Tier 3 on Friday (October 16).
Pub owner Andy Mac said he hopes the free food offer will encourage people to continue visiting the pub and help keep the "ship afloat" through the difficult weeks ahead.
Speaking to the Post, he said: "We were worried that we would be seeing less bums on seats when the Government announced that only restaurants could open.
"I had the option of closing with a small monthly Government grant and furlough for staff.
"This option isn’t right nor fair for everyone that’s worked so hard to allow us to open safely and securely.
"Myself and my team have spent endless amounts of time, effort and money to follow all the guidelines in order to open.
"I am furious at the decisions our Government has made. They don’t care enough for our industry and decisive action is required."
Under Tier 3 lockdown, pubs and bars can only remain open where they operate as if they were a restaurant - which means serving "substantial meals", like a main lunchtime or evening meal. They can only serve alcohol as part of such a meal.
Andy's answer to the strict restrictions on Preston's pubs is stacked platters of chicken wings and chips, at absolutely no cost to his customers.
He explained: "This means free chicken wings and chips for everyone, every day, from 5pm.
"Our customers are more than welcome to eat as many as they like. There isn’t any catches. I’ve got nothing to lose now."
Andy, who also took over the Wellington Inn in Glovers Court in July, says he has not sought guidance from Preston City Council on whether the free food offer is officially permitted under Tier 3. But he said he had reached "breaking point" with the "continuous new rules" that have disrupted his business under lockdown.
He said: "Since the start of Covid we’ve been in close communication with licensing regarding most matters.
"But I’ve not spoken to them regarding the free food. If I’m completely honest, I didn’t want to give anyone the opportunity to even question what I was doing.
"I’ve literally had enough of these continuous new rules and I was at breaking point with the Government.
"I’ve abided by every Government rule and my team and I have put a lot of time and effort in order to keep our customers and ourselves safe.
"Last thing I wanted to do was close and just spend my days banging my head off the wall at home and twiddling my fingers wondering if and when my bar would ever open again."
He added: "We’ve had an amazing response and it’s all been positive. The support has been overwhelming."
Andy admitted that he was a "little worried" that some people might be tempted to take advantage of his kind offer, but he said this has not yet been the case.
"I’ll be honest that was a little worry of mine", he said.
"But we launched it on Saturday (October 17) and all our customers were great. Nobody took advantage.
"I am a firm believer in good karma and this little system I came up with has proven to be beneficial to everyone.
"I don’t mind taking a hit. As weird as it sounds, I have a little less money now, but I’m buzzing!
"But we don’t care if you want to come for the food and just drink water. Because we know 99% of our customers appreciate the deal and naturally will buy a drink whether it’s alcoholic or soft.
"If Covid has hurt you financially then we are happy to feed you and expect nothing in return.
"We now employ a larger team, have a great amount of bums on seats, and it helps us mentally by keeping us busy.
"The deal won’t end. It will continue until we can finally go back to normal.
"Please Preston, do us the honour of continuing to support Ships and Giggles, buy drinks, and keep ships afloat and staff in jobs."
The free food is available between 5pm and 9.45pm, seven days a week at the Ships and Giggles in Fylde Road.
What does Preston City Council say about the free food offer?
In response to the Post asking whether this is allowed or not, the city council said: "No, a person must purchase a meal and then purchase alcohol to accompany that meal."
Councillor Peter Moss, deputy leader and cabinet member for planning and regulation, said: "We understand and are mindful that the changes to the hospitality industry as part of the Tier 3 restrictions are challenging for many businesses.
"While we can appreciate the difficulty this is causing and innovative solutions are being developed, we all have to work within the regulations set by Government.
"According to the current guidelines, a reasonable amount of alcohol may be purchased to accompany a meal – one that may be expected to be served at a table, as a main meal.
"The restrictions prevent excessive amounts of alcohol to be purchased and consumed with that meal, or long after the food has been eaten."
Coun Moss added: "We are currently updating our website with the full criteria, as outlined by Government.
"Our environmental health team, working with Lancashire Constabulary, visit premises throughout Preston at regular intervals checking compliance with Covid safety standards.
"We will continue this work to ensure regulatory standards are met.
"We would much rather support and work with businesses but, where necessary, we will not hesitate to take a robust approach."
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