UK hospitality businesses prepare legal action against coronavirus restrictions

Pubs and bars are to be closed under the highest level of restrictions

Ben Chapman
Monday 12 October 2020 16:26
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People in a pub in Liverpool, parts of the North of England are bracing themselves for the most stringent Tier 3 controls
People in a pub in Liverpool, parts of the North of England are bracing themselves for the most stringent Tier 3 controls

UK hospitality businesses are mounting a legal challenge to the government's lockdown restrictions, aiming to halt closure of pubs and bars.

The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) argues that ministers have not presented evidence backing up the effectiveness of closing hospitality venues in stopping Covid-19 transmission.

It announced plans for a judicial review ahead of a new three-tier lockdown system announced by the government on Monday.

In tiers two and three under the government's latest measures, mixing in households will be restricted but restaurants will be allowed to stay open.

In areas under the highest level of restrictions pubs and bars will be closed, unless they can operate as a restaurant and people will be advised against travel in and out of the areas.

Merseyside is to go into the highest level of restrictions while Greater Manchester is among the regions to be placed under tier 2 measures.

In an announcement made before the latest restrictions were unveiled, NTIA chief executive Michael Kill said: "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,"  

"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.

The NTIA has joined forced with the British Beer and Pub Association, two of the country’s biggest brewers and pub operators, JW Lees and Joseph Holt, and other organisations to bring the review.

Miles Robinson, a partner at law firm Mayer Brown said it would be difficult to be successful in a judicial review.

“It is not enough to show that the government could have made a better decision, or even that it behaved unreasonably.  

"Some sort of legal or factual error is usually required. One possible basis for a judicial review is a failure to properly consult with interested parties or take into account relevant factors."

The North of England has seen some of the fastest rises in case numbers over recent weeks. Hospitality businesses are among those taking the biggest financial hit from the pandemic, with many pubs and restaurants struggling despite government support.

Government data indicates that a small minority of coronavirus transmission has happened in hospitality venues, with schools, university campuses and workplaces responsible for a greater number of new cases.

The owner of G-A-Y nightclub last week said he would launch a judicial review into the 10pm curfew for pubs, clubs and restaurants.  

Jeremy Joseph said the curfew was damaging to hospitality businesses and "makes absolutely no sense".

"It does the opposite of protecting people by pushing them onto the street at the same time. They are going from being safe inside venues with staggered closing times to unsafe on overcrowded streets and overloaded public transport."

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