Monday 12 October 2020 10:11 am

Coronavirus: Hospitality industry to take legal action over local lockdowns

Britain’s hospitality industry is set to take legal action against new lockdown restrictions around the country that it said will have “catastrophic” consequences for the sector. 

The industry’s biggest trade bodies will today hand Downing Street a legal challenge to the emergency legislation, as the government prepares to announce a new three-tier system that will see large parts of the country under new restrictions by the end of the week.

Read more: FTSE 100 falls as threat of new coronavirus lockdowns looms

The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), which represents more than 1,400 businesses across the UK’s night-time economy, said it has been left with “no other option but to legally challenge” the government’s new approach to tackling the pandemic.

NTIA boss Michael Kill said: “These new measures will have a catastrophic impact on late night businesses and are exacerbated further by an insufficient financial support package presented by the chancellor in an attempt to sustain businesses through this period.”

He added: “This next round of restrictions are hugely disproportionate and unjust, with no scientific rationale or correlation to Public Health England transmission rates, when compared to other key environments.

“Another closure will undoubtedly cause extreme hardship. The gravitas of the situation and the impact on the industry has been elongated and uncompromising.”

The night-time economy is the UK’s fifth-biggest industry, accounting for at least eight per cent of the UK’s employment and annual revenues of £66bn, according to data from the NTIA.

Leaders in the North of England, which has been hardest hit by a sharp spike in coronavirus cases, have voiced their support for the NTIA’s judicial review. 

Sacha Lord, Manchester’s night time economy adviser, said: “Once again the government wants to shut down pubs and bars, but this cannot keep happening and we need to understand why the hospitality industry is being isolated like this – where is the scientific evidence to suggest closing venues suppresses transmission?”

 The British Beer and Pub Association, which represents more than 20,000 pubs across the UK, has also backed the NTIA’s legal challenge, alongside two of the country’s biggest brewers and pub operators — JW Lees and Joseph Holt.

It comes as the Liverpool City Region is expected to face the strictest restrictions under the new three-tier system, which will determine regions as being at a medium, high or very high level of alert.

Pubs, bars and restaurants will likely be forced to shutter in the most infectious areas, after Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon introduced similar measures for Scotland last week.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak on Friday announced he would extend the furlough scheme for six months for businesses across the UK required to close under local lockdowns.

Sunak said the government will pay two thirds of employees’ salaries at a maximum of £2,100 a month to businesses forced to close under fresh lockdown measures. 

But industry figures warned that the measures do not go far enough to prevent wide-scale job losses across the hospitality sector. 

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said the new support package would “bring some hope to those businesses which are still bearing the brunt of restrictions,” but warned the new scheme will not apply to all struggling businesses.

The government has already been hit with a legal challenge to its 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants in England. 

Read more: ‘More than three-quarters’ of UK hospitality firms could go bust within a year

Jeremy Joseph, owner of London nightclub G-A-Y,  last week called for a judicial review to have the curfew overturned.

In a letter to health secretary Matt Hancock, Joseph said the curfew has had a “significant impact on restaurants and other hospitality venues across the country” while the government “seems to direct the blame for this action on the sector, consistently treating the night-time economy as a scapegoat”.

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