Last week, England exited its second national lockdown and entered a system of tiered restrictions where towns and areas are assigned to one of three tiers judged on their current Covid-19 risk.
The city of Nottingham falls into the highest-risk Tier 3 category, which requires that hospitality venues remain closed, other than for delivery and takeaway.
An Aztec-themed tequila bar previously known as “400 Rabbits” has now become the “Church of 400 Rabbits” after its owner spotted a loophole in the Tier 3 rules saying that places of worship, unlike pubs, can admit people inside their premises.
Owner James Aspell has applied to Nottingham council to certify his church as a place of meeting for religious worship, but he isn’t hopeful.
He told CNN, “It’s a tongue-in-cheek effort to shine a light on the ridiculousness of the government’s new tier system and how contradictory the rules are. Even if we were moved down into Tier 2 we still wouldn’t be able to open without serving what they call ‘a substantial meal’.”
He described “the whole Scotch egg fiasco” which has engrossed the British public this week. A Scotch egg is a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat and deep fried in breadcrumbs. After much debate, the government has now declared it a substantial meal rather than a snack, which makes a vital difference in the tier restrictions.
Other establishments are searching for working loopholes too. The Caxton Arms pub in Brighton is trying to bypass Tier 2 restrictions by serving a beer named Substantial Meal.
400 Rabbits isn’t the first business to try the “place of worship” trick: last month Poland’s Atlantic Squash and Fitness Club rebranded itself as the Church of the Healthy Body in a similar effort to keep open.
The Church of 400 Rabbits is now seeking congregants through its website with great success. Worshipers are signing up all the way from Nantucket to Novosibirsk, but the church is still keeping its fingers crossed, hoping for a miracle from Nottingham council.