UK markets closed

Off-licences and breweries on 'essential businesses' list for coronavirus lockdown

Licensed shops selling alcohol are allowed to remain open during the UK's coronavirus lockdown. (Carl Court/AFP via Getty Images)

Off-licences have been added to the UK government’s list of “essential businesses” allowed to stay open during the nationwide lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Licensed shops selling alcohol, including those in breweries, were a late addition to the updated list of stores exempted from mass closures in the retail and hospitality sectors.

Other businesses considered essential to keep the country running include supermarkets, pharmacies, corner shops, banks, petrol stations, and bike shops.

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Non-essential shops were ordered to close on Monday night as prime minister Boris Johnson announced UK-wide lockdown.

Pubs, bars, restaurants had already been told to close their doors in an effort to encourage social distancing to help prevent the spread of coronavirus — a move that saw supermarket shelves stripped of alcoholic beverages as people stockpiled booze.

Supermarket shelves were stripped of alcoholic beverages as people stockpiled booze. (Joe Giddens/PA Images via Getty Images)

Places of worship must close, apart from for funerals, as must libraries, museums, galleries, and bingo halls.

The inclusion of off-licences on the essential businesses list is likely to come as a blow to JD Wetherspoon (JDW.L) boss Tim Martin. Last week the pub chain owner pledged to keep his 867 UK pubs open for as long as possible, arguing that closures would not help stop the coronavirus, just hours before every pub and restaurant in the UK was ordered to close.

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“Pubs should remain open rather in the way parliament has remained open,”Martin said at the time. “You could implement reasonable social distancing... rules such as no standing at the bar please, wipe down the surfaces every half hour, and so on.”

Since the closures Martin has told Wetherspoon’s 40,000 staff they could face delays being paid and urged them to consider taking a job at supermarkets like Tesco (TSCO.L) instead.

The comments provoked criticism from unions and some Wetherspoon staff. The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) and SpoonStrike, a group set up to organise collective staff action at JD Wetherspoon, said the pub group had “no regard for the financial and mental wellbeing of their employees.”