I will fight in court to get pubs open again, writes HUGH OSMOND
I will fight in court to get pubs open again, writes Punch Taverns founder HUGH OSMOND
Back in January the Prime Minister heralded the new Covid vaccines as our ‘way out’ of lockdown.
Since then more than 24million people have been vaccinated but the Government has been busily moving the goalposts and I don’t know a single person who understands why we are doing what we’re doing any more.
Indoor ‘non-essential’ retail outlets will be allowed to reopen on April 12 while pubs, bars and restaurants will have to remain shut for another five weeks unless they have a garden or terrace they can use for outdoor dining.
Pubs, bars and restaurants will have to remain shut for another five weeks after April 12 when non-essential retail outlets can reopen
Not only does this long delay needlessly squander the benefits of the fast vaccination rollout, it is plainly irrational, unscientific and not based on evidence.
So, along with Sacha Lord, night-time economy adviser for Greater Manchester, I wrote to the Prime Minister this weekend notifying him of our intention to take his Government to court.
When taking momentous and unprecedented actions affecting millions of its citizens, the Government must base its decisions on evidence, not prejudice, and should be held to account if it does not.
Our case follows Sacha’s successful challenge regarding the Government’s ludicrous Scotch egg proposal last November. This ruling, you may recall, categorised the dish as a ‘substantial meal’ for the purposes of tier regulations which banned drinking in pubs unless food was ordered too.
Judges confirmed that the measure ‘lacked a proper scientific evidential basis’ and found that where a Government acts without evidence it risks having its decisions overturned. The Government reversed its decision as a result.
In the last 12 months tens of thousands of hospitality businesses – from landlords and restaurateurs to suppliers and contractors – have been forced into bankruptcy.
By returning to court in a bid to have the end of the hospitality lockdown brought forward to April 12 we hope to provide a boost for the industry’s workforce – more than three million people – and the millions of loyal customers who have been deprived of the human social interaction they experience in our premises.
if we are to impose lockdowns which have a catastrophic effect on the economy we must make sure these decisions stand up to scrutiny, says Hugh Osmond
Hospitality is essential for local communities, businesses and economies because our ability to socialise is critical to our mental health and – when it comes to Covid – our sector is significantly safer than non-essential retail where the risk of transmission is higher.
Why? Because last summer a vast amount of time, money and effort went into making hospitality venues ‘Covid-secure’.
We hired extra cleaners, implemented rigorous track-and-trace systems – complete with QR codes and phone apps – and developed strict one-way systems and table-only sit-down service so that customers could stay safely and socially distanced at their tables within their bubbles.
Meanwhile, most hospitality venues have ventilation systems of a standard much higher than that defined by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies as sufficient to prevent airborne transmission.
With all these measures in place, it is obvious that hospitality venues are safer than crowded shops.
And, as a result, the number of outbreaks in hospitality venues was significantly lower than the totals reported in other venues, settings or workplaces.
Public health directors such as Sheffield City Council’s Greg Fell tell us that ‘hospitality does not crop up as a terribly big factor’ and is ‘nowhere near the top’ of his ‘risk radar’.
In the hospitality sector revenues have been slashed by £200million a day and 660,000 jobs have been destroyed
And yet – while we remain closed – from April 12 people will resume browsing and queuing in shops where they will walk around freely, touching surfaces and handles, picking up items and getting closer to other shoppers than they would if they were in a bar or restaurant.
I understand the desire for caution and the imperative need for this to be the last lockdown we ever face.
But if we are to impose lockdowns which have a catastrophic effect on the economy and our health and welfare, we must make sure these decisions stand up to scrutiny.
In the hospitality sector alone revenues have been slashed by £200million a day and 660,000 jobs have been destroyed.
Between now and May 17 – the date set for the indoor reopening of hospitality businesses – more than 3,500 pubs, bars and restaurants will close their doors for ever.
It shouldn’t be difficult for the Government to justify its roadmap timetable if the science, data and evidence have been followed. But if the Government refuses to respond, we will issue judicial review proceedings without further notice.
I hope our case can open up a chink of light at the end of this very dark chapter so that we can – as the Prime Minister said – ‘reclaim our lives and freedoms once and for all’.
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