Judicial review proceedings have been initiated after First Minister Mark Drakeford has been hesitant to provide hospitality with a reopening date for indoor hospitality.
While Drakeford said it was the Welsh Government’s “ambition” for pubs to fully reopen before the end of May, he said the “fast moving and unpredictable” nature of the pandemic necessitated caution.
The Government will consider reopening indoor hospitality at the lockdown review cycle from Monday 17 May.
Operator of Cardiff’s Sticky Fingers Street Food restaurant Matt Connolly, has called for pubs to reopen alongside non-essential retail from 12 April, echoing a similar legal challenge in England.
If the Welsh Government refuses to provide a reopening date, it should provide a robust explanation including evidence on the transmission risks linked to indoor hospitality, Connolly’s lawyers argue.
The challenge is headed by JMW Solicitors, the same legal team behind Sacha Lord and Hugh Osmond’s case against the English Government over its decision to reopen indoor hospitality five weeks after non-essential shops.
Connolly said the hospitality sector wanted to be “treated fairly” and had invested huge amounts of money and time in Covid-proofing venues.
“The failure to provide any clarity for the opening of indoor hospitality is a massive blow to the industry - we can’t plan without a date to work towards,” the operator said.
“We believe we should be permitted to open our doors again from 12 April in line with non-essential retail. If that isn’t possible, at least let us see the evidence used to make that decision - thousands of livelihoods are at stake.”
Partner at JMW Solicitors, Oliver Wright said it was unlawful for the Welsh Government to have “failed to provide clarity for the hospitality industry.”
Absence of facts
“It’s a wholly disproportionate approach when considering the other sectors that have been permitted to open,” Wright added. “It’s a decision taken in the absence of any apparent facts or evidence.”
“The failure by the Welsh government to provide a clear date is creating more uncertainty for one of the hardest hit sectors," he continued. "They can’t plan without a date to work towards and a lot of businesses could be forced to close for good. They need to know when staff will be removed from furlough and when rotas can be reintroduced; when to start ordering stock and when they can start taking bookings again.”
Welsh pub operators previously told The Morning Advertiser they had been “left in the dark” by the Government and trade bodies have called for additional grant support.
The Welsh Government has until 14 April to respond to a formal notice letter from JMW.
The same legal team also succeeded in arguing that English Government’s policy of requiring pubs to serve food with alcohol last year was potentially discriminatory to certain social groups.