PUBS in Wyre Forest are fighting to survive even stricter restrictions brought about by the latest lockdown.

The third national lockdown is the toughest yet for many local pubs, which are now banned from selling takeaway alcohol under new tougher restrictions.

Chris and Tracy Lowe, who run The Swan at Blakedown, say the hospitality industry is being discriminated against while supermarkets are free to continue selling alcohol.

"We started doing takeaways in March to keep us going," said Chris. "We had a good response from it, but when we went into the third lockdown we had to stop doing the alcohol and just do food instead. It was a massive disappointment.

"We were given nine hours notice that we wouldn't be able to do the alcohol takeaway any more so that was £700 worth of stock that had to be tipped down the drain.

"We try to support local breweries but obviously we won't be making those orders now so that's going to affect them too.

"Surely it’s a lot safer to walk down to your village pub and buy a bottle of beer than it is to go to Tesco where there are hundreds of other people. It makes no sense."

Tracy said: "We've got two boys and we need to pay both of our wages. It does seem like the industry has been discriminated against. The pubs are at the end of what we can take now."

The Weavers Real Ale House in Comberton Hill has had its only remaining income stream axed as a result of the government’s decision to ban takeaway beer sales.

Kidderminster Shuttle: Weavers Real Ale House in Comberton HillWeavers Real Ale House in Comberton Hill

Dean Cartwright, who owns the independent pub, said: "We did it in the first lockdown, ordering in mini kegs and selling them or people could bring in their own container - it was doing okay.

"The thing I can’t get my head around is if you’re going to stop pubs doing takeaway alcohol, why not stop the supermarkets too? It's a joke.

"If it wasn't for the furlough scheme, the pub wouldn't have survived. We’ve got great customers and that’s the only reason we’ve been able to keep going.

"We are just doing what we can to survive."

Wyre Forest Campaign For Real Ale (CAMRA) says this latest lockdown is the toughest yet for licensees and are calling for a more sector-specific support programme from the government.

Branch chairman Nick Rubery said: “The thing we feel most aggrieved about is that pubs have gone to enormous lengths to make it safe to reopen and lots of them have done a very good job. They've really struggled making any money and it's our view that it's very unfair to stop them from trying to play on a level playing field with the supermarkets and off-licences by doing their own alcohol takeaways.

"We fully support the need for this lockdown but if the government is going to go down this route then it needs to look at a more substantial support package for licensees.

"A lot of them are still having to pay rent - some may have had discounts on their rents but there are other costs that don't just disappear just because the pub is closed.

"Pubs have had a year of very tough restrictions and forced closures and now they've been hit again by this alcohol ban. We need a sector-specific support scheme to ensure these pubs are still there to serve their customers when the lockdown lifts."

The restrictions on the hospitality industry have forced many in the industry to look at alternative income streams.

One of the local businesses doing just that is Bewdley Brewery, which launched a beer delivery and click and collect service at the start of the first lockdown last March.

Kidderminster Shuttle: Dave Carr, Tim Wilkins and Chris Carr launched a beer delivery service at Bewdley Brewery at the start of the first lockdownDave Carr, Tim Wilkins and Chris Carr launched a beer delivery service at Bewdley Brewery at the start of the first lockdown

The brewery, based in Lax Lane, has still seen a 90 per cent drop in its income in the last year, but says the new service has been a “life-saver”.

Dave Carr, who runs the business with his wife Chris and son Tim Wilkins, said: “We started the click and collect service on March 23 last year. We started offering a delivery service for the DY10 to DY14 areas.

"Our van was already out delivering to shops and pubs five days a week but we couldn't do that anymore because they were closed, so we started the home deliveries to keep us going.

"In the summer, it was brilliant. Hot weather sells beer. It has quietened down a lot now, but our customers do really love it.

"We would normally have about 400 pubs on our books and we used to have the bar open four nights a week, so this delivery and click and collect service has been a life-saver. It’s our main source of income now."

MP Mark Garnier said the government had to stop alcohol takeaways as people were breaking lockdown rules by gathering outside to drink.

He said: "The problem with the alcohol takeaways is people were accumulating outside pubs and spreading coronavirus. While I sympathise with the pub owners that have contacted me about their struggling businesses, our hospitals are about to collapse. People are dying and the death rate is very high. We really can't put people at risk. It's heartbreaking because we want pubs to survive, but it's that lives vs livelihoods debate again.

"The latest round of grants are still to be distributed - it's not enough and it's not going to replace their incomes but it's there to meet their outgoings. If anyone needs help accessing those grants they can of course get in touch with my office."