Britain’s hospitality industry has launched a legal challenge to stop government plans to force pubs and other venues to close to tackle a surge in coronavirus cases.
The Night Time Industries Association and the British Beer and Pub Association, as well as restaurants and breweries across the north of England, have moved to prevent measures from being imposed this week.
The judicial review will argue that no evidence supports hospitality venues having contributed to the spread of Covid-19.
Boris Johnson, prime minister, is expected to announce on Monday that restrictions will be imposed across the Liverpool city region and Warrington. The government might also impose the same measures in Greater Manchester.
The Scottish government has already forced bars and restaurants that serve alcohol in Glasgow, Edinburgh and surrounding cities to close.
Sacha Lord, the night-time economy adviser to Greater Manchester’s mayor, Andy Burnham, is spearheading the legal proceedings. Mr Burnham has not joined the action.
“There is currently no tangible scientific evidence to merit a full closure of the hospitality and entertainment sectors,” Mr Lord said.
“Our discussions and ongoing calls for evidence have been ignored and we have therefore been left with little choice but to escalate the matter further.
“We have now engaged lawyers to begin a judicial review into the legality of the emergency restrictions due to be imposed on the hospitality and entertainment sectors.”
Under English law a judge could suspend the government’s measures pending a hearing of the case.
The action is backed by Greater Manchester brewers JW Lees, Joseph Holts and Robinsons, as well as restaurant owners and pub chains.
They say tens of thousands of jobs will be lost across the north if they are shut. Public Health England data suggests that between 3 and 5 per cent of clusters over the past month could be traced to restaurants or food outlets.
However, in its weekly surveillance reports, the government agency has said that, for those testing positive, “eating out was the most commonly reported activity in the two to seven days prior to symptom onset”.
Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, has promised grants of up to £3,000 a month to closed venues but no support for those in the supply chain whose sales fall. Staff will receive 66 per cent of their salary from the state.
Mr Burnham, other mayors and some Conservative MPs believe this is too little. Mr Burnham has said he could take legal action to increase the furlough pay to 80 per cent.
On Tuesday night many Tory MPs are expected to vote against the nationwide 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants but, with Labour abstaining, it is likely to be passed.
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