Plans to keep indoor hospitality venues closed for weeks longer than non-essential shops in England are facing a legal challenge from a leading restaurateur and night tsar.
Hugh Osmond, the founder of Punch Taverns and a former director of Pizza Express, and Sacha Lord, Greater Manchester’s night time economy adviser, have submitted a claim for a judicial review to the Government.
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.
Under the Prime Minister’s road map for unlocking restrictions in England, non-essential retail will open no earlier than April 12. But indoor hospitality venues will not open until at least May 17.
Mr 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.
“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.
“Our democracy should be better than this and on behalf of all those who have been affected by Government measures, and those of us who cherish British democracy and freedom, I hope our case can open up a chink of light at the end of this very dark chapter, so that we can – as the Prime Minister said – reclaim our lives and freedoms once and for all.”
Mr Osmond and Mr Lord’s letter to the Government’s legal department argues that hospitality venues are safer than non-essential retail, and that they are essential for local communities and mental health.