Greater Manchester's night time tsar loses attempt to legally challenge delay to reopening indoor hospitality

Pub staff. File photo. Credit: SOPA Images/SIPA USA/PA Images

Greater Manchester's Night Time Economy Adviser has lost an attempt to legally challenge the government's decision to delay the reopening of indoor hospitality.

Sacha Lord argued there was no justification or scientific basis for the decision while non-essential shops were allowed to reopen.

The Warehouse Project and Parklife festival founder brought the case with Hugh Osmond, the man behind the Punch Taverns pub chain.

The pair sought to challenge the decision to delay the reopening of indoor hospitality until 17 May.

However, a High Court judge has ruled in favour of the government.

In the overview, the Honourable Mr Justice Julian Knowles dismissed the call for judicial review to bring forward indoor reopenings as 'academic', noting the necessary hearing would now be unlikely to take place before the date by which indoor hospitality is already scheduled to reopen.

We are disappointed with the outcome. While this fight has always been an uphill battle, made harder by the Government's delaying tactics and refusal to mediate, we are pleased that the case has shone a light on the hospitality sector and the unfair and unequal guidance within the recovery roadmap.

Sacha Lord

Mr Osmond said the judgment came just hours before SAGE, the government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, reported that ministers had been advised that "eating out in any food outlet or restaurant was not associated with increased odds" of catching Covid.

The scientists found that overall the data suggests that the hospitality sector, compared to leisure and retail sectors seems to be associated with greater risk of transmission.

However, they add that population attributable fractions - the fraction of all cases in a population that is attributable to the setting - associated with transmission in hospitality, retail and leisure are relatively low.

Mr Osmond said it is unclear when the SAGE report was written or submitted to ministers but the report was not disclosed by the defence during the legal proceedings.

Despite orders to speed up the case, the final judgement was delayed due to a backlog in the court system.

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 added, "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.

"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. Not only does this severely impact on business and sector recovery, but on the staff whose wages, and ability to pay rent, food and bills, are at the mercy of something as unpredictable as the weather."

Having considered the ruling with their legal team, the pair have decided that there is insufficient time to challenge it before 17 May. Mr Osmond is reviewing other legal options in relation to the matter.