High Court bid to review delay until indoor hospitality returns fails

4 May 2021, 06:51

The High Court has ruled in favour of the Government in an indoor hospitality dispute
The High Court has ruled in favour of the Government in an indoor hospitality dispute. Picture: PA

By Will Taylor

The High Court has ruled in favour of the Government in a dispute over delaying the reopening of indoor hospitality, according to a statement.

Punch Taverns founder Hugh Osmond and Sacha Lord, the founder of Parklife and The Warehouse Project, launched a bid to challenge the decision to wait until May 17 to bring back service inside pubs and restaurants.

They argued there was no justification or "scientific basis" for it to remain banned while non-essential shops were allowed to reopen.

Mr Justice Julian Knowles said the call for a judicial review into bringing forward the reopening was "academic" because it would be unlikely to go ahead before May 17, a statement said.

It added that Mr Osmond and Mr Lord tried to get the case sped up, and Mr Osmond is considering other legal options.

But they will not challenge the decision with less than two weeks to go before indoor hospitality is expected to be green-lit.

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Mr Osmond said: "This case is not 'academic' for an industry that is losing £200m every day it remains closed, for the over three million people who work in our industry, or for the tens of thousands of businesses, suppliers, landlords and contractors forced into bankruptcy by Government measures.

"Our legal action gave them a fighting chance yet once again in 2021, the strong arm of the state has come crushing down on hope and aspiration."

Mr Lord said: "The hospitality sector has gone above and beyond to implement measures which provide safe, secure environments - measures which were, let's not forget, advised as safe by the Government themselves and which the court already deemed to be effective based on the evidence we provided in support of our previous judicial review.

"There are thousands of bars, pubs and restaurants across the country which are still closed and whose owners and employees are struggling financially due to these unfair restrictions.

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"For the 40% minority who do have outdoor space, this weekend's weather has only exacerbated the ongoing struggles the industry has continually faced, and I've heard of countless pubs that have been forced to close early or who have had zero customers due to the bad weather."

When previously responding to a bid to commit to the May 17 reopening date, a Government spokesperson said: "We are continuing to make good progress in tackling the virus, with case rates and hospitalisations down... but we cannot be complacent or lose sight of the risks this virus poses.

"That is why we must continue to take a cautious and irreversible approach to reopening and monitor the data ahead of each step of the road map.

"We are doing everything we can to back hospitality as it prepares to reopen, including offering pubs restart grants worth up to £18,000 - part of our much wider £352 billion support package."