Pubgoers are using a secret code to keep drinking by leaving a small amount of food on their plate so landlords can claim they are still eating to dodge Covid restrictions.
Customers have flooded social media with claims that pub owners are telling them to leave some of their meal so that they can carry on drinking.
Some Twitter users said the action was to be expected given Boris Johnson's latest rules, which mean that diners under Tier 2 restrictions in England are not allowed to linger or order more booze after their food is finished.
If this rule is broken then landlords are expected to ask their customers to leave - or face hefty fines for breaching the Government's Covid-19 legislation.
Pubgoers are using a secret code to keep drinking by leaving a small amount of food on their plate so that landlords can claim they are still eating to dodge Covid restrictions
It comes as diners under Tier 2 restrictions in England are not allowed to linger or order more booze after their food is finished (file photo)
One tweeted: 'I know someone who owns a pub, and all he was doing before the lockdown and presumably after it was saying to his regulars, "just buy a plate of food, leave a few chips on your plate and we won't empty your table.
'"As long as your bill has food on it, we will serve you all night"'.
Another posted: 'I was in a pub last night; we ordered our food and then just kept ordering more drink.
'We just made sure that there were a few bites of burger left on the plate. No-one tried to clear the plate away.
'Almost everyone else was doing the same thing.'
Many noted that they were allowed to carry on drinking if some food was leftover on their plate, saying that other pub customers were doing the same.
A third social media user wrote: 'I went to a pub in tier 2 with mates on Wednesday. It was full, we had food, the landlord told us we can stay and drink for as long as we like, we kept our plates in front of us, they just took away the empty glasses.
'These guys need money!!! Rules will be broken'.
Customers have flooded social media with claims that pub landlords are telling them to leave some of their meal so that they can carry on drinking
A fourth added: 'Pub is letting me drink until I can't see as long as I keep my empty plate on the table...
'Pint 5 with my sandwich is a go...'.
Another commented: 'If you have to leave a pub after you finish your meal, what's stopping you from leaving a couple of chips on the plate and continuing to drink, saying "I haven't finished yet!"'
It follows one pub landlord jokingly renaming an ale 'Substantial Meal' in a cheeky bid to get around the new restrictions.
Brett Mendoza, 40, who owns the Caxton Arms in Brighton, East Sussex, came up with the idea while discussing what constitutes a substantial meal with another landlord after the latest measures were announced last week.
Brett Mendoza (right), 40, who owns the Caxton Arms in Brighton, came up with the idea (left) as a joke while discussing what constitutes a substantial meal with another landlord
Fancy a pint? You'll have to buy a meal (not just crisps)
Pubs can remain open in areas under the most stringent rules – but only if they serve customers meals with their drinks.
Those that just sell alcohol must close under 'tier three', the toughest new measures.
Diners will be required to eat 'substantial meals' rather than crisps, nuts or other bar snacks.
Social mixing will be banned both indoors and in private gardens, so people cannot go out with anyone outside their household.
Both the police and the council will be responsible for enforcing the 'substantial meal' rules.
Toby Perkins, Labour MP for Chesterfield, said: 'It's not entirely clear if you had a sausage roll with a bowl of chips, would that be substantial? I'm not clear on that.'
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick suggested that only a pasty that came with a side and was served to a table in a pub could be considered as 'a normal meal'.
An image of the spoof beer pump clip, which is from the 'made up brewery' and described as 'hearty, filling and flavoursome', was posted to social media last Wednesday, captioned: 'Bring on Tier 2'.
Tier 2 pubs can only serve alcohol if bought with a 'substantial meal', leaving drink-led pubs weighing up whether it was even commercially viable to trade.
Pubs are launching so-called 'Boris menus' of cheap tapas-style plates of food that drinkers can order through the day so they can enjoy a drink with family or friends.
A substantial meal is defined by the Government as a 'full breakfast, main lunchtime or evening meal' - with Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick claiming a pasty on its own doesn't count, but when served with chips and salad it does.
When asked how long drinkers can stay in the pub after purchasing food, the PM's spokesman said last Friday: 'We've been clear that, in Tier 2 I believe, that you need to have a substantial meal if ordering any alcohol and it remains the case that the guidance says that once the meal is finished, it is at that point.'
Boris Johnson imposed Tier 2 and 3 rules on 99 per cent of England last Thursday. The higher category bans all hospitality business, while the other permits pubs to stay open only if they serve food and household can only mix outside with a substantial meal.
More than 50 pubs and breweries including Greene King, Heineken and Budweiser pleaded with the Government to extend support to avoid thousands of local venues going bust.
They said in a letter to the Chancellor Rishi Sunak: 'It would be nothing less than heart-breaking if, having survived through the last nine months, pubs now face ruin with the end of the pandemic in sight.
'The support the Government has given us up to this point would all be for nothing, a colossal waste of resources. The looming disaster is avoidable, but only if you act now.'
Over 38,000 pubs, restaurants, bars and hotels in England have been shut in Tier Three, apart from for takeaways, affecting 38,000 workers.
A Government spokesperson previously said: 'The length of exposure is one of the main factors in the spread of the virus which is why alcohol may only be served as part of a main table meal, and cannot be served once the meal is finished.
'There is no prescribed limit for how long a meal is expected to take, however we expect people to act reasonably and exercise good judgement.'