Holing up at your favourite pub, flanked by a parma and a pint, is wholly off the cards right now. But new iso initiative Counter Covid is here to remind Melburnians that they can still have a similar experience at home, and support their local while they’re at it.

Spearheaded by the pub-loving creatives at Collingwood agency By All Means, Counter Covid began in OG lockdown. Now it’s back, just as lockdown lethargy hits all over again.

It’s simple: order a takeaway meal from a participating pub and get a free tinnie of pale ale, donated by Moon Dog, to go with it.

So far 16 Melbourne pubs have signed on, including north-side spots the Robbie Burns, The Empress, The Tote and The Green Man’s Arms, as well as Leonard’s House of Love, Lamaro’s Hotel and the Exchange Hotel in the south, and The Station and The Plough in Footscray.

By All Means co-founder Ed Howley is hoping to add more to the list in the coming days.

The coronavirus shutdowns have hit the hospo industry hard, but Howley says the switch to takeaway has been particularly hard for pubs.

“All of a sudden they’re competing in a heavily saturated market, going up against traditional takeaway businesses – but also Australia’s finest restaurants selling the likes of home-delivered lasagne.”

Then there was the whiplash of entering lockdown 2.0 almost overnight. “The [publicans] we’ve spoken to are finding it more difficult than last time,” says Howley. “A lot of them had fully stocked kitchens and kegs. You drive around now and see signs saying, ‘Bring in a container and we’ll fill it with beer’, because they’re trying to get rid of the excess.”

Despite that, it’s heartening to know we can maintain some sense of normalcy in these wild times with a pub meal – and a free frothy – to-go. Pick up The Empress’s prosciutto-topped panko-crumbed parma (which Howley says has been selling like crazy), the Lamaro’s beer-battered fish’n’chips with mushy peas, or Leonard’s House of Love’s stacked double cheeseburger made with beef brisket and short rib patties.

Last week each pub received two Moon Dog slabs, and Howley says Richmond’s Spread Eagle Hotel ran out in just three days. That might be only 48 meals, but every single one helps at the moment.

“We understand this initiative’s not gonna change people’s fortunes,” says Howley, “but we wanted to do what we could to give them that little bit of extra help.”

To claim your free tinnie, write “Counter Covid” in the comments section or mention it over the phone or at the bar when ordering from a participating pub. Find a full list here.