A PUB landlord who has ‘had enough’ of Tier 3 restrictions has decided to re-open his pub and serve £1 microwave meals to his punters ­— in retaliation to an exemption clause which allows working men’s clubs across the county to stay open.

Darren Heggie, who runs the Havelock Inn in Blackburn, had to close his doors once Tier 3 restrictions came into force on October 17, because his pub only serves alcohol and not food, a requirement of the new rules for areas on high coronavirus alert level.

Abiding by the government’s decisions Mr Heggie shut his pub but was angered when he discovered nearby Mill Hill Working Men’s Club was allowed to remain open and serve alcohol to its members, despite not serving food.

Posting on social media, Mr Heggie said: “Had enough of this.

“The Havelock will reopen for weekends from Friday November 6.

“We will be open Friday-Sunday from 11am-10pm.

“In order to have an alcoholic drink you must purchase one of our substantial microwave meals for £1 and you must only be sat with your own household.

“Menu will be out soon and you will be allowed a three hour time slot in order to eat your meal.”

The move came shortly after Mill Hill Working Men’s Club posted on their social media page saying they would be opening from 1pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, serving alcohol to members only.

READ: Working men's club Tier 3 exemption loophole CLOSED by government

Mr Heggie said: “It’s ridiculous that I can’t get a drink in my own pub but I can walk across to Mill Hill and not have anything to eat and get as drunk as I want, and that’s ok?”

Under Tier 3 restrictions, pubs may open only if they operate as if they are a restaurant serving substantial meals, which have been purchased by the customer, and they may only serve alcohol as part of such a meal.

Mr Heggie added: “I am going to get a microwave and will be doing microwave meals and will be selling them at £1.

“They need to be a substantial meal and they will be - cottage pie, curry, whatever.

“The brewery are in the process of sorting all the paperwork out for me and, as I’m not preparing food on the premises, only using a microwave, I can start as soon as I want.

“Everyone has had enough, especially now the working men’s clubs have been allowed to open and not serve food.

“How can that happen when all other pubs not serving food have to close?”

The 41-year-old, who has run the Havelock Inn for nearly 14 years, said his decision to re-open was not about making money, it was about trying to keep the pub running, provide jobs for his staff and continue giving his older customers a place to socialise.

He continued: “Some people come in for a chat during the day and that’s the only social interaction they get.

“I have nothing against Mill Hill or any other working men’s club opening up, it’s the government’s incompetence and the fact they’ve overlooked this that I am angry about.

“The council and the government haven’t got a clue what they’re doing.”

An exemption in the Tier 3 restrictions states premises that hold a ‘Club Premises Certificate’ do not sell alcohol, instead they supply alcohol to their members.

The requirement to close does not apply to these premises, nor do they need to provide a substantial meal to club members or their guests when they are drinking, under the Tier 3 restrictions.

Club premises should only supply alcohol to members or guests of members. Clubs must not admit the general public.

Licensing officer for East Lancashire, Sgt Gary Hennighan, said his understanding of the situation was that the exemptions stand.

He told the Lancashire Telegraph: “Currently there’s an exemption for members’ clubs to remain open.

“To me it seems completely unfair. Ultimately they are allowing a bar that doesn’t serve food to open when others are struggling.

“As far as the pubs putting on microwave meals to sell, as long as it’s a substantial meal and everything is done within the rules and regulations and they have everything in place then they can do it.

“It’s likely our local authorities are trying to clarify this with the government as what’s happening is not right.

“A lot of licensed premises are going through a tough time and they are looking at this and thinking ‘how are they allowed to open?’”

Regeneration boss at Blackburn with Darwen Council, Councillor Phil Riley said because the council is responsible for enforcing such rules, it was imperative everyone understood them.

He said: “Therefore we are taking every step to understand the specifics around working men’s clubs.”

A council spokesperson said: “Having spoken to Mill Hill WMC and sought clarity from the cabinet office, there are specifics in the Government’s current rules and regulations that allow volunteer and social clubs to open till 10pm.

“We have highlighted this inconsistency to Government and are awaiting urgent clarification from them. We will provide an update as soon as possible.”