The owners of a historic Musselburgh pub have stressed that it can open for carry-outs amidst the Covid-19 lockdown, after concern was raised on social media.

They assured that the government rules were being “strictly followed” at The Volunteer Arms, known as Staggs, which has an off-sales licence.

On the pub’s Facebook page, they stressed to “all who are concerned,” that they were “not encouraging social gatherings” and “absolutely value the lives of our community and of our NHS.”

Mixed public comments were posted including: “Is this classed as leaving the house for essentials or daily exercise?”, “Off licences are open as they’ve been classed as essential. Don’t see the difference here as long as folk are adhering to the rules”, “How can you expect punters to come when you can only go out for essentials?”, and “You’re a lifesaver, keep up the good work.”

Katie McKenzie, daughter of owner Nigel Finlay, whose family have run the pub since 1858, told the Courier that the Emergency Coronavirus Bill (Scotland) allowed them to continue with off-sales as they had a licence to do this.

She explained: “We would just like to reiterate that public safety is paramount in our decision to open for carry-outs. We are strictly following the government rules. We have a one-in one-out policy, with clear markings to keep people two metres apart. You come into contact with significantly less people than you do at the supermarket. We suggest you incorporate it into your daily walk so as not to leave the house more often than needed, though we are only open for an hour a day.

“Our customers have found some comfort in being able to avoid busy shops and keep some of the joyful things in life in these difficult times. A vast majority of customers have been in touch to say how helpful they have found this service. We will continually assess the situation and if the government makes any further changes to its policy will of course adhere to that.”

Sarah Crawford, CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) Director for Scotland, said: “It’s is completely right that local businesses like Staggs, which are such an important part of the community, can continue to sell beer to take away. This is being done safely, with proper social distancing measures in place and is totally in line with emergency laws passed by the Scottish Parliament last week. 

“One thing most people are looking forward to when all this is over is going down the pub to meet friends and family for a drink. But if we don’t allow our pubs to continue to sell beer to take out and drink at home, where it is safe to do so, then we risk not having them around at all in the future.”

Mr Finlay believes that this is the first time in its history that Staggs has been closed for such a prolonged period, adding that it remained open during both world wars. He added that it was finally beaten by “the invisible enemy.”

Staggs, in North High Street, has won numerous CAMRA awards and, in March, celebrated being named Pub of the Year in the Lothians. It won the title of best pub in Scotland and Ireland for the third time in 2018, and Pub of the Year for the UK in 1998.