Controversial ‘substantial meal’ rule to be scrapped when pubs reopen

No more debates over whether a Scotch egg counts as a meal

Updated on • Written By Caroline Hendry

Close map
Controversial ‘substantial meal’ rule to be scrapped when pubs reopen

It is believed that the government plans to scrap its much maligned ‘substantial meal’ rule for pubs and bars when they reopen after the latest UK lockdown.


According to a report published by The Times, a number of previous Covid-19 policies are on the chopping block when the third national lockdown is lifted. The government’s current plan is to begin lifting restrictions in early March, although they have noted that the lockdown could be extended if the number of Covid-19 cases continues to rise.

When the hospitality sector reopens, business owners will be hoping for as few restrictions as possible, so publicans will be glad to hear that the controversial ‘substantial meal’ rule is set to be scrapped entirely.

Previously, establishments which served alcohol that were located in either tier two or tier three areas were only allowed to open if patrons could order a substantial meal alongside their choice of alcoholic beverage. However, the vague term of ‘substantial meal’ became a point of contention, with business owners left to wonder whether individual items such as a portion of chips or a Scotch egg constituted a substantial meal.

To add to the confusion, the government failed to provide clear guidance as to which dishes counted as substantial, instead relying on local councils to settle on their own interpretation of the rules. Unsurprisingly, this led to much confusion and disparity, with the potential for a substantial meal to mean something different in each of London’s 32 boroughs.

Although restaurants and pubs are not expected to open until late spring at the earliest, the end of this confusing and seemingly unenforceable rule is hopefully a step in the right direction for the hospitality sector.

To prepare for when you are allowed to go out drinking again, check out our pick of London’s best pubs and bars.

Join SquareMeal Rewards

Collect points, worth at least £1, every time you book online and dine at a participating restaurant.

Start Collecting Points

Already a member? Sign in