Plans to keep indoor hospitality venues closed for weeks longer than non-essential stores in England are facing a legal challenge from a leading restaurateur and night czar.
Hugh Osmond, the founder of Punch Taverns and former director of Pizza Express, and Sacha Lord, the Greater Manchester night economics advisor, have filed a petition with the government for judicial review.
They believe there is “no evidence or justification for prioritizing” non-essential retail over the hospitality industry, saying that this could have a “potentially indirectly discriminatory effect” on young people and people with a BAME background working in the hospitality industry work.
According to the Prime Minister’s timetable for the lifting of restrictions in England, non-essential retail stores will not open until April 12th at the earliest. Indoor hospitality venues won’t open until May 17th, however.
Mr. Osmond, director of Various Eateries, said the government must base its decisions on “evidence free of prejudice” if it is to take “meaningful and unprecedented actions that affect millions of its citizens”.
“I believe we can show that discrimination and unfounded beliefs, rather than facts, science and evidence, are at the core of much of the government’s approach to hospitality, and these mistakes need to be corrected.
“This litigation provides over three million people who work in the hospitality industry, tens of thousands of businesses, suppliers, landlords and contractors – large and small – who have been forced into bankruptcy, and millions of our loyal customers an opportunity to battle human social interaction robbed that they experience in our premises.
“We will never be able to repair our health, restore our social life 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 who are affected by government action and those of us who value British democracy and freedom, I hope that in the end our case can open this very bright spot for us to – as the Prime Minister said – take back our lives and our freedoms once and for all. “
The letter from Mr Osmond and Mr Lord to the Government Legal Department argues that eating places are safer than unnecessary retail stores and that they are essential to local communities and mental health.