The UK hospitality industry is mounting a legal challenge to the government’s lockdown restrictions, aiming to stop its plans to close pubs and other venues to tackle the rise in coronavirus cases.
The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) revealed late on Sunday that the industry has taken legal action to prevent lockdown measures from being imposed.
The judicial review will argue that no evidence supports hospitality venues having contributed to the spread of COVID-19.
‘The industry has been left with no other option but to legally challenge the so called ‘common sense’ approach narrative from government, on the implementation of further restrictions across the North of England,’ NTIA CEO Michael Kill said in an email.
‘These new measures will have a catastrophic impact on late night businesses, and are exacerbated further by an insufficient financial support package,’ the statement read.
Revellers leave the pubs after closing time in Liverpool city centre yesterday evening enjoying the last weekend before COVID restrictions are expected to force pubs and bars close in the area
Boris Johnson will set out new measures to try to contain a growing coronavirus crisis on Monday, outlining three new alert levels to better coordinate the government’s response.
From 5pm on Wednesday, hundreds of pubs in the northwest could be closed for four weeks as part of the plans, following Scotland’s lead.
In Scotland, tough new restrictions on the hospitality industry were introduced last week.
Across most of the country venues are only allowed to operate indoors between 6am and 6pm and not serve alcohol.
Pubs and licensed restaurants in certain areas have also been forced to remain closed until October 25.
Now, the hospitality industry has hit out at the government and announced a legal challenge.
Sacha Lord, the night-time economy adviser for Greater Manchester, has instructed lawyers to draft a submission to the government,.
He also challenged the government to produce the science behind the ‘draconian and dramatic’ rules.
He said: ‘We are calling out for the scientific evidence that supports closure. The vast majority of businesses have put in place impeccable measures to protect their customers, all at an extra cost to their business, yet it feels like the government are taking another cheap shot at the hospitality industry.’
Thomasina Miers, co-founder of chain restaurant Wahaca, told BBC Radio 4 this morning: ‘There are two main issues I’d like to get across about the new restrictions. One, we know that hospitality isn’t a problem and two, Rishi Sunak’s deal that he announced on Friday will not reach the people it was designed for.
‘First, if you look at the pubs and restaurants, we’ve been incredible good as an industry at providing distance and safe, well-tracked spaces for people to socialise in, which we know they need for mental wellbeing.
‘We are the experts in this, at providing these safe spaces, and so we’ve got to be allowed to get on with it.
‘We saw that we were open throughout July and August where there was little spread of Covid and we now since that these desperate curfews they’ve put in have not stopped the rise of the virus but they have encouraged people to binge drink when they are in premises and they force everyone out of the premises at the same time, into the street, onto packed tubes.
‘Prohibition does not stop behaviours it merely drives them underground and at a huge cost to businesses that the government didn’t foresee. If you want people to act like adults you have to treat them that way.’
If a business is closed due to third tier restrictions, the Government will pay two thirds of each employee’s salary, up to a maximum of £2,100 a month, according to The Telegraph.
The rules will be applied for a month before they are reviewed but could run for up to six months.
Northern England has been particularly hard hit by a new surge in coronavirus cases that has forced local lockdowns as students returned to schools and universities across Britain.
On Monday, Johnson will hold a meeting of the government’s emergency COBRA committee and then address parliament, offering lawmakers a vote later in the week on the measures.
The Prime Minister’s colleagues feel that the upcoming clampdown is a ‘gamble’ to avoid having to implement a ‘circuit-breaker’ national lockdown over the October half-term, a senior Government source told the Sun.
The Prime Minister is expected to introduce a three-tier system of lockdown measures in an attempt to make the existing patchwork of restrictions easier to understand.
Areas with relatively low infection levels will be placed in ‘tier one’, where only national restrictions such as the ‘rule of six’ and the 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants will apply.
Tier two will also include bans on home visits and indoor socialising with other households. Options for tier three include total closure of the hospitality sector, a ban on overnight stays outside the home and the closure of venues such as cinemas.
Swathes of the North of England, including Manchester and Liverpool, could be placed immediately into the tier with the most severe restrictions, so pubs and restaurants would have to shut their doors.
Real estate adviser Altus Group has said there are 7,171 pubs in areas with restrictions across the north of England at risk of temporary closure.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced on Friday workers in businesses which are forced to close under the new restrictions will have two-thirds of their wages paid by the Government under the JSS.
But it is less generous than the furlough scheme which comes to an end on October 31.
Britain recorded another 12,872 coronavirus cases on Sunday, marking a nine per cent increase on last Sunday’s adjusted total which followed the Government’s extraordinary figures blunder.
The figures mark a 2,294-case drop from yesterday’s daily total of 15,166. Saturday’s death toll was 81 – 16 more deaths than the 65 recorded Sunday.