UK govt faces lawsuit over hospitality reopening

15th March, 2021 by Nicola Carruthers

Sacha Lord, the night-time economy adviser for Greater Manchester, has threatened the UK government with legal action over its plans to reopen hospitality venues after non-essential retailers.

The UK lost 12,000 hospitality venues in 2020, according to UK Hospitality

On Twitter, Lord said the government has until Wednesday (17 March) to respond to his legal challenge. Lord believes there is a lack of evidence for delaying the reopening of hospitality.

He said: “Hospitality needs time to reorder, staff up etc. We need decent advance notice about re-opening. With that in mind, we’ll ask that our case is expedited in the High Court.”

Lord believes the hospitality sector should be allowed to reopen for indoor service on the same day as non-essential retailers, which is currently on the proposed date of 12 April.

According to the government’s lockdown reopening plan, only outdoor service for the on-trade would be allowed from 12 April, while indoor service could resume on 17 May at the earliest.

Lord argued on Twitter that the hospitality sector is “licensed and regulated”, making it “far safer to open up these safe, secure venues” than continuing to allow consumers to buy alcohol from supermarkets for consumption in gardens or parks.

Hugh Osmond, founder of UK-based pub and bar operator Punch Taverns, has also joined Lord in his legal challenge.

Osmond said: “After Sacha’s success in challenging the ludicrous Scotch egg proposals, our objective is to ensure that, when taking momentous and unprecedented actions affecting millions of its citizens, the government must base its decisions on evidence not prejudice, and can be held to account if it does not.

“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.

“This legal case will give a fighting chance to over three million people who work in hospitality, to the tens of thousands of businesses, suppliers, landlords and contractors – large and small – forced into bankruptcy, and to millions of our loyal customers who have been deprived of the human social interaction they experience in our premises.

“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.”

‘Data, not dates’ 

In response to the legal challenge, trade group UK Hospitality called for the government to “review the roadmap”.

The trade body’s CEO, Kate Nicholls, said: “The swift vaccine rollout and its impact on case numbers is extremely positive. It gives us hope that the government will be able to deliver on its commitment to make this the last ever lockdown and, most importantly, to remove all social distancing restrictions for good on 21 June.

“While any restrictions remain in place, our pubs and restaurants can only break even and the viability of thousands remains at risk – we lost over 12,000 in the last year alone.

“That is why we urge the government to review the roadmap and look to remove or reduce restrictions on trading – table service, online or takeaway only, no standing outdoors – at the earliest possible opportunity. It may also be possible to allow some limited indoor operations to resume at an earlier date.

“While we understand the need for caution, we would urge the government to review the roadmap again and make decisions based on data, not dates.”

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