The High Court has ruled in favour of the Government in a case to reopen indoor hospitality before 17 May as set by the roadmap.
The legal challenge was brought Sacha Lord, Greater Manchester’s night-time economy adviser, and Hugh Osmond, founder of Pizza Express, Punch Taverns and recently-created Various Eateries PLC (LON:VARE).
They argued that there was no justification or scientific basis for indoor hospitality to remain closed while other businesses, such as non-essential retail, have resumed trading.
The High Court dismissed the case because the necessary hearing would now be unlikely to take place before 17 May, when indoor hospitality would reopen anyway. The judge said the call was “academic”.
Despite orders to expedite the case, the final judgement was delayed due to a backlog in the court system.
The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) said the judgment came just hours before a SAGE report emerged, indicating that ministers had been advised that “eating out in any food outlet or restaurant was not associated with increased odds” of catching COVID-19.
In the report, SAGE scientists said the risk of “transmission in hospitality, retail and leisure are relatively low” with just 226 outbreaks in hospitality venues since pandemic began.
“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,” the NTIA said.
“This case is not ‘academic’ for an industry that is losing £200mln 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,” Osmond commented.
“The judge said that Covid ‘justifies a precautionary or cautious approach on the part of the Government’. But when a crucial SAGE report is ignored, this goes far beyond caution, and questions need to be asked about when this advice was sought and why this important evidence was not disclosed.”
Meanwhile, Greene King said it is critical that all restrictions are dropped on 21 June as London pubs have experienced lukewarm trading.
Chief executive Nick Mackenzie told the Evening Standard they are making only 30% of normal revenue despite the enthusiasm seen when pubs reopened.
“We’re not making any money, and we won’t be able to reinvest until we have certainty post-June 21,” he said. “London particularly has been a real challenge. We only opened around 20% of our pubs in London and trading in those pubs compared to the rest of the country is more subdued.”