Government threatened with court action over phased reopening

By Emily Hawkins contact

- Last updated on GMT

Lockdown roadmap: trade bosses said “discrimination and unsubstantiated beliefs" lie at the heart of many coronavirus measures for hospitality (image: Getty/Schulz Christian)
Lockdown roadmap: trade bosses said “discrimination and unsubstantiated beliefs" lie at the heart of many coronavirus measures for hospitality (image: Getty/Schulz Christian)

Related tags: lockdown, Legal, Legislation, Health and safety

Trade figures have warned they will take court action against the Government over the reopening date for indoor hospitality.

Night-time economy adviser for Greater Manchester Sacha Lord and Punch founder Hugh Osmond wrote to the Prime Minister notifying him they intended to legally challenge the Government's roadmap.

They said it was unfair for pubs to be forced to wait five weeks after non-essential retail reopens.

“Discrimination and unsubstantiated beliefs, rather than facts, science and evidence, lie at the heart of much of the Government’s approach to hospitality, and these wrongs need to be righted,” according to Hugh Osmond.

Non-essential retail and outdoor hospitality may be able to open from 12 April while indoor hospitality must wait until at least 17 May, the next stage of the lockdown exit strategy.

Discrimination concerns

The letter argues young and BAME workers are hit the hardest by the phased approach to reopening and so  there are “serious concerns as to the potentially discriminatory impact”.

Judicial review proceedings will be issued if the Government does not consult SAGE on "whether it is justifiable to prevent the hospitality industry opening whilst, at the same time, allowing non-essential shops to open (when the risk of transmission is plainly higher in non-essential shops).”

The Government has been given until Wednesday 17 March to respond.

Night czar Lord took the Government to court over its ‘substantial meal’ restriction during England’s tiered Covid alert system​, where it was ruled the rule was arguably discriminatory to working class communities. 

The vast majority of wet-led pubs in Greater Manchester pubs are in the area’s most deprived areas, Lord told The Morning Advertiser​ previously,​ with many tagged onto the end of terraced streets without large beer gardens.

“These pubs serve more than a pint, they serve the community. We need to support the mental health of the lowest paid, they’re had it tougher than everybody else,” he said.

Held to account

Former pubco boss Osmond said the Government “must base its decisions on evidence not prejudice, and can be held to account if it does not.”

The action argues hospitality has been “significantly safer” than non-essential retail, with the trade investing substantial amounts into Covid-secure venues.

What’s more, hospitality venues are easier than non-essential retail to keep safe and there is no evidence hospitality is unsafe, the pair stated.

Hospitality is essential for local communities and mental health and cannot operate online unlike some retail businesses, the duo’s lawyers are prepared to argue in court.

Lord and Osmond urged the Prime Minister to give the trade certainty by 5 April “at the latest”.

UKHospitality boss Kate Nicholls urged the Government to review the roadmap and to allow “some limited indoor operations to resume at an earlier date.”

Related topics: Health & safety

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