Manchester police chief says officers won’t rule on whether pubs are serving ‘substantial meals’

File photo dated 23/05/17 of Greater Manchester Chief Constable Ian Hopkins who has revealed that he shed tears after talking with the families of the 22 victims murdered in the Manchester Arena bombing.
Greater Manchester Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said his officers will no longer be making decisions on what constitutes a ‘substantial’ meal. (PA)

The chief constable of Greater Manchester Police has said officers will no longer pass judgement on what constitutes a “substantial meal” following a row over pizza slices.

New coronavirus rules after the city moved into Tier 3 lockdown mean pubs and bars must serve a meal – defined as a main lunchtime or evening meal or a main course – with alcohol if they want to stay open.

Bosses of a trendy Northern Quarter bar in the city centre were told by police on Friday that their pizza slices did not fall into that criteria.

Staff at Common bar on Edge Street say police visited on Friday afternoon and told them the sizeable slices, which are cut from 22-inch pizzas, were not sufficient to sell as a meal with alcohol.

But the manager said the officers themselves did not have any information about what constitutes a “substantial meal” under the new guidelines.

Greater Manchester moves into Tier 3

Greater Manchester has moved into the highest coronavirus alert level of Tier 3, joining Lancashire and Liverpool City Region.

The slices are now back on the menu following the row, dubbed Pizzagate, but Chief Constable Ian Hopkins says his officers will no longer be making decisions on the size of serving portions – and will instead be visiting premises with the help council licensing officers to check they are following the new rules.

“My officers will be told they are not to get involved in debates about what constitutes a substantial meal,” Hopkins told the Manchester Evening News.

“We have plenty of other things to focus on.”

It seems the council is also having a difficult time imposing the new rules, however.

An unnamed official told the Sunday Times: “We’re finding [the rules] impossible to interpret.

“We’ve been having some ludicrous conversations with bar owners about pasties, beans on toast, toasties, bowls of chips with gravy.

Read more: Pub owner to sell meals for a penny to get round Tier 3 lockdown rules

“What is a substantial meal? Surely that depends on the size of the person? What if they’re skinny and they like salads?”

Greater Manchester Police said: “We are currently still awaiting clearer guidance to be given around what constitutes a substantial meal in line with the new restrictions.

“Given we have already entered Tier 3 restrictions, it is our duty to ensure that the rules are being followed and therefore officers must assess situations on a case by case basis.

Nearly 2,000 venues have had to close in Greater Manchester since the area entered Tier 3.

The new restrictions mean 2.8 million residents of the region are banned from social mixing indoors and guidance against travelling in or out of the region.

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham speaking to the media outside the Central Library in Manchester, he has threatened legal action if Tier 3 restrictions are imposed without agreement.
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said the government is ‘playing poker with people’s lives’, shortly after Tier 3 lockdown was imposed on the region. 

Mayor Andy Burnham said on Sunday that the government had “walked away” from discussions over a £65m financial package to support businesses.

Burnham also told the Sunday Times: “If you don’t fund a tier 3 lockdown properly, then you can’t blame businesses for wanting to stay open. The incentives aren’t in place to get proper compliance.”

He added: “What we are possibly heading for is a halfway house – a long attritional period where we don’t have an effective lockdown because people are bending the rules.

“This is where Westminster gets it wrong. This is real people’s lives here.”

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