UK hospitality reopening plans face legal challenge

Lucy Harley-McKeown
·2-min read
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 02: Beer pumps sit dormant in a Manchester pub during the pandemic lockdown on March 02, 2021 in Manchester, England. The Chancellor is expected to award 700,000 shops, pubs, clubs, hotels, restaurants, gyms and hair salons up to £18,000 each in the budget to kickstart businesses after the Coronavirus pandemic lockdown.  (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
At the end of February, prime minister Boris Johnson laid out a roadmap for unlocking COVID-19 restrictions in England, with non-essential retail opening no earlier than 12 April. Pubs with beer gardens and eateries with outdoor spaces will start welcoming people back in groups no larger than six on the same date. Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

A leading restaurateur and night tsar are gearing up to bring legal action against the government, arguing against plans to keep indoor hospitality venues shuttered for four weeks longer than non-essential shops in England.

Ex-director of Pizza Express and founder of pub group Punch Taverns, Hugh Osmond and Greater Manchester night time economy adviser Sacha Lord have submitted a claim for judicial review.

They believe there is “no evidence or justification for the prioritisation” of non-essential retail over hospitality, and said it could have a “potentially indirectly discriminatory effect” on young people and people from BAME backgrounds working in hospitality.

The move comes as confirmation of reports two weeks ago that Lord would look to bring a legal challenge against the timings.

At the end of February, prime minister Boris Johnson laid out a roadmap for unlocking COVID-19 restrictions in England, with non-essential retail opening no earlier than 12 April. Pubs with beer gardens and eateries with outdoor spaces will start welcoming people back in groups no larger than six on the same date.

Meanwhile, indoor hospitality is not scheduled to fully reopen until at least 17 May.

Alongside the roadmap, in chancellor Rishi Sunak's budget earlier this month, he extended furlough support to September — a move the government hopes will shore up businesses and jobs until the economy can definitively reopen.

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Osmond, director of Various Eateries, said the government must base its decisions on “evidence not prejudice” when taking “momentous and unprecedented actions affecting millions of its citizens.”

“I believe we can show that 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," he said.

He argued that the case would give a "fighting chance" to 3 million people in hospitality and to thens of thousands of businesses, suppliers, landlords and contractors forced into bankruptcy.

“We won’t ever be able to repair our health, recover our social lives or rebuild our economy if we allow our Government to lock us up and shut down the economy on the basis of such flawed logic, little justification or evidence," he said.

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