Government warned ‘al-fresco’ drinks bill is ‘recipe for violence’

Plans to ease restrictions on take-away beer from bars and pubs are a “recipe for disorder and violence”, the government has been warned.

The government has worked to strip hospitality businesses of regulation that would stop them offering al-fresco services in a bid to get the sector working again despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 coronavirus.

However, members of the House of Lords have warned that the regulatory bonfire could lead to public disorder if people are allowed to order take-away pints to be taken out on the street as premises close.

It comes as the latest round of lockdown easing appeared to leave some ignoring government guidance on social distancing – with late-night drinkers amassing in the narrow streets of London’s Soho district on Saturday night.

Lord Paddick, who previously served as the Metropolitan Police’s deputy commissioner, told the chamber: “If revellers in such locations are allowed to buy alcohol to take away when these late night premises are about to close, there is a real danger the disorder we have seen recently caused by illegal street and block parties, in which many police officers have been injured, could potentially increase.

“If revellers are allowed to take alcohol with them when they leave, when the party closes inside these late-licence premises, they are likely to continue the party outside on the street.

“People walking down the street with pint glasses full of alcohol is a recipe for disorder and potential violence. The image of someone who had a broken beer glass pushed into his face is one I will never forget.”

The measure is designed to help trade in the face of social distancing rules – with other provisions in the legislation including the streamlining of the application process to enable pubs and restaurants to get permission for on-street dining more quickly.

Commenting on gatherings in London’s Soho, Lord Randall added: “The images from the weekend where in some places social distancing reduced as the alcohol intake increased gives me real concern.

“Sadly drunken and anti-social behaviour is not unusual in some city centres.”

Meanwhile, Labour former home secretary Lord Blunkett revealed he was “bemused” by the measure.

He said: “While I am totally in favour of kick-starting elements of the economy that have been so badly damaged by the lockdown, I cannot see for the life of me that licensed premises selling alcohol off-premises … will actually do very much, other than fuel the already worrying concerns about activity late at night, particularly in the major cities.”

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