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WSTA CEO comments on the need for clarification around ‘essential businesses’

Coronavirus | 26 March, 2020

The WSTA has had a number of inquiries from member organisations asking us if retail shops, online businesses and production of alcohol can continue, given the current restriction on certain types of businesses opening to the public as a result of the continued outbreak of Coronavirus.

Miles Beale, Chief Executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, said:

“The WSTA team has sought clarification from Government on what is classified as essential businesses. We have consulted extensively with DEFRA, who have not given us a definitive view, however they have accepted that we will be advising our members – with businesses in England and Wales, and in Scotland – that they can remain open, as long as all staff adhere to social distancing rules. The situation is different in Northern Ireland, where off-licences are not permitted to open. 


Based on advice issued by the Office of Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) within BEIS, officials have said only essential businesses should now remain open. It follows from this that a business that is allowed to remain open must be essential. Off-licences have been added to the list of retail outlets that are permitted to open.

In order for alcohol retailers and online businesses to trade then the supply chain for those businesses needs to remain functional. For businesses like bottling plants and distilleries it is simply not possible to work from home. Provided businesses are content that staff can respect social distancing rules while at work and when travelling to work and that staff are happy to continue to work; then businesses can stay open. 

We take further comfort from the fact that Michael Gove has said publicly that online trade in non-essential items can continue. We are therefore advising our members who trade online that if they wish to continue to offer online sales then, provided staff are able to work safely, then activity can continue.”

 The government’s core message remains “Stay at home” and a link to all the relevant distancing guidance is here.


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