A Lancashire pub owner who began serving free chicken wings and chips to customers so he could stay open and retain customers under Tier 3 lockdown has been told he must stop or face closure.

Andy Macdonald, who runs student pub, Ships and Giggles, in Preston, began serving free food on October 17 in a bid to keep his business afloat.

Posting on social media on Friday October 16, Mr Macdonald said: "Free chicken wings and chips from 6pm starting tomorrow.

"You’re more than welcome to eat as many as you like.

"There isn’t any catches. I just can’t be arsed listening to government anymore. I’ve got nothing to lose now.

"Please do us the honour of continuing to support Ships and Giggles, buy drinks, and keep Ships afloat and staff in jobs."

However, less than a week into the scheme, and Mr Macdonald was contacted by environmental health officers from Preston City Council who said he was disobeying the rules and could no longer serve free food.

In retaliation and in another effort to save his pub, and the jobs of his staff, Mr Macdonald, who goes by the name 'Andy Mac', said if he wasn't allowed to provide food for free, he would ask customers to pay just a penny for their meals.

Taking to social media on Wednesday, he said: "I am disgusted, disheartened and so bloody offended.

"Bang on 5pm yesterday when I was about to open my doors I received a phone call from a particular individual from the council's environmental health team.

"The first thing he said was ‘you are providing free food so people can purchase alcohol’.

"I asked him to repeat it and made it clear how wrong he was.

"I had to repeatedly tell him that how dare he try and tell me what I’m doing when I’m not, and then wait until 5pm when I’m about to open my doors to ring me and talk down to me when I have a restaurant/bar to open putting fear into myself and my staff.

"Now today, miraculously, Preston Council released this, specifically stating that a meal must be purchased by the customer.

Warrington Guardian:

"When you dig deeper and visit the Preston Council website it states ‘therefore premises cannot provide free food to accompany alcohol that has been purchased’.

"So moving forward...meals are now a penny.

"However you can ‘pay what you want’ if it’s more than a penny.

"I.e. if you have been affected financially, pay a penny, if you haven’t, pay a little more.

"And our meals are now improved, and by this weekend, we will have an even larger amount of food available.

"We will also hold your table for two hours in order to control anyone that wants to consume alcohol.

"If anyone is intoxicated we will ask you to leave, which we do anyway.

"I don’t know how to make myself any more clear on what I’m doing.

"I am doing everything in my power to keep my business afloat and in the safest way possible.

"What we are doing at Ships and Giggles is trying to shine some light during these mentally and financially dark times.

"I, like many others, have suffered extremely mentally, but this week I’ve been happy with a massive sense of achievement and satisfaction

"I’m not trying to offend anyone and I’m not doing anything for the wrong reasons.

Warrington Guardian:

"For the past few years I’ve had a great relationship with the council and licensing, and I really hope that they will work with me in order to help me remain open, and keep all my team in jobs, and help the public enjoy socialising in the safest way possible

"We have run our free food since Saturday every day until 9.30pm.

"We have had ZERO problems.

"In fact we had a few issues where people were waiting a little longer for drinks, not food, but drinks.

"The last thing I need is to be hit with a closure order.

"It’s something I am not ready to go through right now.

"And my team and I will do absolutely everything and anything in order to comply with the rules, remain open, and provide the Ships and Giggles service to all that attend."

Preston City Council's website states that meals must be purchased by the customer at the premises and when purchasing the meal the customer may also purchase alcohol.

Warrington Guardian:

It goes on to say: "Therefore premises cannot provide free food to accompany alcohol that has been purchased.

"A reasonable amount of alcohol may be purchased to accompany a meal.

"Allowing the purchase of copious amounts of alcohol to be consumed with the meal, or with the intention that the alcohol is likely to be consumed long after the food has been eaten, is not allowed."

In a letter posted on Facebook, a council spokesperson said: "As you may be aware from the media, we actively defended businesses across Preston on the basis of the efforts taken and adaptations made to ensure Covid safety.

"However there are firm restrictions that have been put into place, relating to pubs, bars and restaurants, such as: 'alcohol can only be served as part of a main meal', 'the meal must be purchased by the customer'.

"We cannot guarantee that further restriction will not be implemented if the rate does not go down.

"While our preference will always be to work with you to meet the necessary standards, there is increased pressure and expectation that the council takes enforcement action wherever businesses are not meeting Covid requirements."