St Albans pubs call for change in government policy benefiting supermarkets

The Farmers Boy

Ros Kinru, owner of The Farmer's Boy on London Road, said the government is destroying our pub heritage. - Credit: Danny Loo

After months of disruption caused by lockdowns and government restrictions, the district's pubs have now been prevented from offering takeaway sales to their customers.

Not only has this policy had a detrimental impact on our pubs' finances, but it also encourages more people to visit supermarkets which are one of the high risk locations for Covid infection.

Residents now find it easier to stop by their local supermarket to stock up on alcohol rather than order delivery from a pub, and Sainsbury’s on Holywell Hill has even loaded the adjacent Early Learning Centre with supplies of booze.

When the Herts Ad contacted Sainsbury's press office for a comment on this new development, all media relations manager Sophie Stronell would say was: "The Early Learning Centre space at our Holywell Hill store is being temporarily used for storage."

Now the Save St Albans Pubs initiative has joined forces with CAMRA to campaign against the government policy.

SSP founder Sean Hughes, owner of Dylans and landlord of The Boot, said: "When our heritage pubs operated as off-licences during the first two lockdowns, this took the pressure off supermarket footfall.

"They were also also able to fulfil their role as essential community hubs and keep an eye on the well-being of regulars. Now, the government policy is forcing our community pubs out of business, encouraging irresponsible drinking."

Christo Tofalli, owner of Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, said: “The damage supermarkets are causing by selling booze irresponsibly is massive!”

Ros Kintu, owner of The Farmer's Boy on London Road, said: ‘It’s part of British heritage to have a pub and the government's policy is no longer just chipping away at our heritage, it’s destroying pubs.”

Mark Powell, co-owner of The Mermaid, added: “What’s safer? A packed supermarket or an outdoor off-licence service hatch at your local pub serving sealed bottles only? Utter madness!"

Save St Albans Pubs is now calling on central government to take a common sense approach, take the pressure off supermarkets and let pubs sell takeaway alcohol responsibly. This will help keep residents to travel within their neighbourhoods rather than encourage the massive crowds at supermarkets. And it will help save our pubs, as well as lives.

They are also asking residents to keep supporting pubs by phoning them directly to order delivery and to drink responsibly.

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Meanwhile, Save St Albans Pubs has been working with councillors Danny Clare and Mandy McNeil on a solution to having to pour thousands of pounds of draft beer down the drain.

From Thursdays to Saturdays, they will be running a stall at Cellar Door Wines on the Verulam Industrial Estate between 2-6pm, enabling many of our local pubs to be able to sell click and collect draft beer, ciders and ales in sealed containers

Sean Hughes explained: "Following the ludicrous decision to stop pubs from selling their beers (except for expensive delivery), Danny and Mandy were able to discuss the mechanics with SADC licensing officers to come up with a couple of options for us.”

“This is a win-win option of working with the incredible people at Cellar Door Wines who have allowed us to have a communal stall outside their shop so that pubs can sell their beer on the stall for click and collect.”

There is plenty of room for social distancing, and for the logistics around a COVID secure click and collect system. Customers must wear a mask at all times. 

The stall will be manned at times by various of your favourite landlords including the Lower Red Lion, the Mermaid and the Jolly Sailor, and wine will also be on sale from Cellar Door.

Pre-packaged draft beer, donated by Farr Brew and the Goat, will also be sold to help raise funds to support pubs on the brink, and Stick One In Vouchers will be available to order by QR scan.

Call or text the Save St Albans Pubs hotline to arrange a collection time 07510463028