Off-licences win 'essential business' status 

The decision comes amid fears that supermarkets, shops and off-licences could run out of wine and beer

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Off-licences and other alcohol retailers have been granted “essential business” status by the Government so they can continue serving a thirsty nation during the lockdown.

Shops within breweries have also been added to the Government’s list of essential businesses, which already includes pharmacies, bicycle shops, supermarkets and laundrettes.

The move comes amid fears that supermarkets, shops and off-licences could run out of wine and beer as the public stockpile supplies after the Government put normal life on hold.

Some overseas governments have already taken drastic measures to curb stockpiling of alcohol. Authorities in Western Australia have placed restrictions on the amount of the amount of beer and wine consumers can buy, warning that panic buying of booze could create public health issues and put further pressure on hospitals.

On Tuesday Majestic Wine temporarily took its website offline after struggling to keep up with demand for orders of vast quantities of alcohol. Subscription service Naked Wines halted all new orders last week. 

Majestic has since closed all its stores to customers which will not reopen for the foreseeable future, and has advised that deliveries will take about two weeks to arrive rather than the usual two to three days.

Off-licence chain Oddbins and wine retailer Laithwaites have also suspended online orders.

A number of retailers have been pushing to be added to the Government’s list of essential businesses in a desperate bid to continue trading.

Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley was forced into an embarrassing U-turn this week after he reversed plans to keep his stores open after coming under criticism from ministers.

Electronics retailer Dixons Carphone also unsuccessfully lobbied to to keep a third of its 305 Currys PC World stores open as “contact-free” sites and has since had to close its entire estate.