One year since ‘Covidiots’ caused unusual Tesco beer ban in Bristol – what’s changed since then?

It’s one year one since Tesco stores near Bristol Harbourside temporarily banned the sale of beer and cider boxes to deter lockdown rule-breakers. The unusual measure was implemented at “several shops” on on Saturday, February 27 last year at the request of police, after groups were seen gathering at the water’s edge to drink and socialise.

It prevented the sale of multi-packs of alcohol at the College Green and Millennium Promenade branches, mainly affecting boxes of beer and cider. Customers could still buy other alcohol items like wine and spirits, but were not able to purchase packs of alcohol.

At the time, a spokesperson for Tesco said: “We are a responsible retailer of alcohol and following a request from local police, we temporarily suspended the sale of larger multi-packs of alcoholic drinks from two of our city centre convenience stores on Saturday afternoon.”

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The stores are a short walk from where crowds were pictured, with one neighbour describing the scenes as “exceptionally bad” and alleging that people were mixing households and drinking socially. Avon and Somerset Police revealed that it issued two people with covid fines at the harbour over the course of the weekend last year, having already reported dispersing others.

Police say people were ‘sat drinking alcohol’

Last March, the force said it approached “several shops” about the sale of alcohol, suggesting the measure was not meant to target Tesco specifically.

At the time, a spokesperson said: “We approached several shops in the Harbourside area at the weekend and asked whether they would consider limiting the sale of alcohol. This followed instances in which officers spoke to a number of people sat drinking alcohol in breach of the coronavirus regulations.

“Licensees have an obligation to prevent crime and disorder, including anti-social behaviour and to public safety and we’re grateful for their support in helping to reduce the number of people in the area.”

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The sunny weather throughout March in 2021 tempted many people outside over the weekend, with numerous reports on social media complaining of larger gatherings.

‘Lots of beer and weed’

On February 26 last year, @aknotay tweeted: “Beautiful evening but huge crowds congregating around the #Bristol harbourside with no masks or social distancing but lots of beer and weed!

“I know we’re all desperate to get out but hope the massive progress made in reducing #covid cases in the southwest isn’t affected.”

@MattWGriffith also shared images of Brandon Hill on March 1, 2021, blaming students for “trashing” the area. “So Bristol Students: you’ve trashed our local park for *three days on the trot*. Bristolians may be a fairly liberal bunch, but our tolerance for mass lockdown violations is ending if you treat your neighbourhood with such lack of respect…” he said.

What’s changed since last year?

Fast forward 12 months later and covid in the UK is quite a different picture. The UK government announced their ‘Living with Covid’ plan, meaning an end to the legal requirement to self-isolate after a positive test from February 24, with free mass testing stopping on April 1.

People who catch the virus no longer have to self-isolate, although they will still be advised to, and they do not have to tell their employers. In a bid to reign in spending, self-isolation payments of £500 for those on low incomes and routine contact tracing has come to an end.

The scrapping of all coronavirus rules in England marked the end of nearly two years of unprecedented restrictions on our lives. While opposition parties and a doctors’ union have voiced concern over the pace of the change, the plan marks a shift to treating the virus more like flu after the government focused their efforts on mass vaccination.

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