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High Court dismisses as ‘academic’ legal challenge over later reopening of indoor hospitality in Government roadmap

The High Court has dismissed a legal challenge over the decision to allow non-essential retail to open at least five weeks before indoor hospitality.

Under the Government’s ‘roadmap’, non-essential retail outlets were allowed to reopen on 12 April (‘Step 2’).

Hospitality venues were also allowed to serve people outdoors from that date. However, indoor hospitality will only be allowed from ‘Step 3’, which will not be before 17 May.

The challenge was brought by Sacha Lord, the Night-Time Economy Adviser for Greater Manchester, and Hugh Osmond, founder of Punch Taverns.

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Mr Osmond had earlier claimed that the five weeks between Step 2 and Step 3 was “plainly irrational, unscientific and not based on evidence”.

On Twitter Mr Lord claimed today (4 November) the judge had agreed that “the clock had run down”. He also said the Government had failed to disclose a SAGE report, “confirming that during the whole pandemic, only 226 cases were associated with Hospitality”.

In an attached statement Mr Lord said: “We are disappointed with this 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.

“Through our legal challenges, we have achieved significant outcomes for the sector, abolishing the substantial meal requirement with our previous court action and lobbying hard to remove with the 10pm curfew [sic]. Both of these results have had a hugely positive impact on operators nationwide who have been unfairly treated throughout this crisis and undoubtedly saved many jobs throughout the industry.

“In our legal action, we have sent a clear, strong message direct to the heart of Government. We will continue to advocate for those who have been unfairly impacted through this crisis, and despite the outcome, we will continue to hold the Government to account and demand evidence-based decisions, rather than those drafted without detailed analysis or based on bias or whim.”

Mr Osmond also tweeted that after an “unexplained 2-week delay”, the court had ruled the claim ‘academic’ as it would not be heard before 17th May.

He added: “Apologies to everyone in hospitality placing their hopes in our claim. We tried our best and will review all other legal options to prove that Government never had the justification to close pubs and restaurants.”

In February Judge Pearce gave Mr Lord and two other claimants permission for a legal challenge over the restriction on serving alcohol unless it is with a table meal. This requirement was subsequently dropped by the Government when it published the roadmap.

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