A defiant pub landlord has started selling meals for a penny so he can stay open through Lancashire’s Tier 3 anti-Covid lockdown rules.
Government restrictions mean all pubs and bars must close in areas designated as having a ‘very high,’ Covid-19 infection rate, unless they serve food.
Andy MacDonald, landlord of the Ships and Giggles pub in Preston, served up chicken and chips for free at the weekend, after the county was placed under the strictest restrictions on Saturday morning.
But local council bosses intervened on Tuesday, prompting the 36-year-old’s new initiative to offer meals for a penny.
Andy MacDonald, owner of the Ships and Giggles, tried to serve up free food with drinks as Preston entered lockdown last week – after an intervention by the council, the pub landlord is offering meals for just a penny
He said: ‘You can pay what you want if it’s more than a penny.
‘If you have been affected financially, pay a penny, if you haven’t, pay a little more.
‘And our meals are now improved, and by this weekend, we will have an even larger amount of food available.
‘We will also hold your table for two hours in order to control anyone that wants to consume alcohol.’
Today he promoted a burger night on Sunday, instructing customers to ‘pay one penny each per substantial burger meal. It is NOT one Penny per table.’
Furious with local lockdown, Mr MacDonald posted his free meal on social media last week, writing: ‘There isn’t any catches. I just can’t be arsed listening to government anymore. I’ve got nothing to lose now.
‘Please do us the honour of continuing to support Ships and Giggles, buy drinks, and keep Ships afloat and staff in jobs.’
Chicken and chips platters will still be available, but Ships and Giggles hopes to serve up more food, starting with a burger night on Sunday
Plates of chicken and chips left ‘so many people’ feeling ‘grateful,’ says Mr MacDonald, as he plans to expand his menu from this weekend
What’s on the Ships and Giggles’ 1p menu
A sharing platter of chicken wings and chips
Burger and chips (On Sunday)
Onion rings and chips
Preston City Council’s website states that meals must be purchased by the customer at the premises and when purchasing the meal the customer may also purchase alcohol.
When approached by the MailOnline, the council said it would not comment on specific premises.
In a post on social media, a council spokesperson said: ‘There are firm restrictions that have been put into place, relating to pubs, bars and restaurants, such as: “Alcohol can only be served as part of a main meal”, “the meal must be purchased by the customer”.’
But Mr MacDonald says Government guidance is ‘muddled,’ adding it had ‘lost the plot’ and may cost him and his staff their livelihoods.
The pub landlord was furious after the local council intervened in his free food scheme, saying: ‘When we put the free meals on, so many people told us how grateful they were because people are struggling during this pandemic.
‘So many have expressed how thankful they were and we were happy to do it as we understand, we are trying to survive too.
‘But when we were told that we couldn’t do that it was a breaking point for me.
Mr MacDonald denies serving up free food as a means of getting people to buy alcohol, saying people were ‘struggling during this pandemic’
Mr MacDonald said it was a ‘disgrace,’ that he couldn’t provide a ‘free meal for people who don’t have much’. His pub is now offering chicken wing platters and chips for just a penny
‘I’m providing a free meal for people who don’t have much – and we’ve been told we can’t do that. It’s an absolute disgrace.
‘We have done so much to ensure we can operate during Covid, and now we’re told we need to shut again. It’s ridiculous.
‘We are fighting to stay alive, we are fighting for our customers, and for our staff who all deserve better.’
Mr MacDonald said he had received a phone call from the council’s environmental health team on Tuesday.
He said: ‘The first thing he said was “you are providing free food so people can purchase alcohol”.
‘I asked him to repeat it and made it clear how wrong he was.
After Preston council’s intervention, Mr MacDonald is offering customers to pay whatever they want, as long as it is at least a penny
‘I had to repeatedly tell him that how dare he try to tell me what I’m doing when I’m not, and then wait until 5pm when I’m about to open my doors to ring me and talk down to me when I have a restaurant and bar to open putting fear into myself and my staff.’
The Scottish-born landlord added: ‘I am doing everything in my power to keep my business afloat and in the safest way possible.
‘What we are doing at Ships and Giggles is trying to shine some light during these mentally and financially dark times.
Businesses in areas under Tier 3 lockdown measures are eligible for Government support, but Mr MacDonald says he is doing ‘everything in his power’ to keep the Ships and Giggles afloat
‘I, like many others, have suffered extremely mentally, but this week I’ve been happy with a massive sense of achievement and satisfaction
‘I’m not trying to offend anyone and I’m not doing anything for the wrong reasons.
‘For the past few years I’ve had a great relationship with the council and licensing, and I really hope that they will work with me in order to help me remain open, and keep all my team in jobs, and help the public enjoy socialising in the safest way possible.’
Councillor Peter Moss, Deputy Leader & Cabinet member for planning and regulation, told MailOnline: ‘We understand and are mindful that the changes to the hospitality industry as part of the Tier 3 restrictions are challenging for many businesses.
Lancashire has been under Tier 3 restrictions since Friday, joining authorities in the north west
‘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 purchased 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.
‘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.’