Pubs in tier three lockdown can avoid closure by serving a substantial meal, the regulations show.

This is defined as a main meal and the alcohol must be ancillary to it.

The law says meals only count if they “might be expected to be served as the main midday or main evening meal, or as a main course at either such meal.”

It must also be eaten at a table, not as a sharing board standing up.

Under the terms of the regulations, the default position is that all pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes are closed by law and only allowed to reopen if they are either not selling alcohol at all or if alcohol sales are restricted to sales made alongside a substantial table meal, UK Hospitality CEO Kate Nicholls told MCA

“What this does mean is that it is the businesses’ decision to open or not and, if they decide that it would not be economic to open in these circumstances, then they can choose to close and receive the wage subsidy,” she added.

Tier three currently affected Merseyside, but several other regions in the north are under threat of being placed into the strictest category.

Boris Johnson said Liverpool had agreed to enter into the restrictions, while others like Manchester are understood to have fought against the designation.

However Liverpool city region mayor, Steve Rotheram, told residents to blame pub closures on “the mess the government have made in their handling of the crisis”.

He said the financial package on offer for areas affected by the strictest measures was “simply no good” and that local leaders had been given little say in the decision by government.

“What has been portrayed as a negotiation between us and them was anything but,” he said, adding that ministers had “already made their minds up” about imposing a tier three lockdown on Liverpool before discussions began.