The owner of London’s G-A-Y nightclub is set to launch a legal challenge against the government’s 10pm hospitality curfew over claims it treats the night-time economy as a “scapegoat” for the spread of coronavirus.
Jeremy Joseph, owner of the London club and pub chain, today said he would pursue a potential judicial review on the national curfew for hospitality venues if the restriction is not scrapped.
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”.
Sam Karim QC, acting as lawyer for the business, said G-A-Y will launch judicial review proceedings if Hancock does not provide a “satisfactory response” by 4pm tomorrow.
It comes amid fierce criticism from PMs and industry figures that the 10pm curfew introduced on 24 September has done little to curb the spread of the virus, and in many cases may have contributed to a recent uptick in cases.
Joseph said the curfew “makes absolutely no sense”, and does “the opposite of protecting people by pushing them on to the street at the same time”.
“They are going from being safe inside venues with staggered closing times to unsafe on overcrowded streets and overloaded public transport,” he said.
Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) added that the 10pm curfew has had a “catastrophic impact on business levels, resulting in thousands of businesses making the difficult decision to close the doors, or make staff redundant”.
Kill echoed Joseph’s comments that the restriction makes “no sense”, adding that it holds the backing of “no published scientific or medical foundation to reduce transmission rates”.
“If anything, it is counterproductive, with thousands leaving hospitality venues at 10.00pm, creating mass gatherings on the street and overcrowding public transport”, the NTIA chief added.
Industry ‘on its knees’
Last week 100 major hospitality firms amped up pressure for the restriction to be dropped with an open letter urging the government to “think again over the damaging 10pm curfew, which has seen pubs up and down the country face a business-threatening drop in trade”.
The letter to chancellor Rishi Sunak said measures to control the virus, including mandatory table service, had resulted in a huge drop in trade for an industry already “on its knees”.
It warned that even before the 10pm curfew was introduced, half of the UK’s 100,000 hospitality firms feared they would not be able to survive in eight months time.
The letter urged Sunak to “support pubs or be responsible for mass closures, job losses and hardship”.
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.
Meanwhile, London’s night-time economy directly supports 723,000 jobs — one in eight in the capital, according to the Office for National Statistics.
A major new study released last Friday warned that almost 300,000 jobs will be lost in the UK’s pubs, bars and breweries — landing a potential £7bn hit to the economy — unless the current restrictions are scrapped.
A Treasury spokesman said: “We’ve supported the hospitality sector from the start of the outbreak, protecting millions of jobs through initiatives such as the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, VAT cuts, business rates holidays and cash grants of up to £25,000.
“Our support for business continues to reach millions of firms, and we stand ready to do more as necessary. Businesses can still access our loan schemes, a moratorium of eviction for commercial tenants and the statutory sick pay rebate scheme. The job support scheme is designed to protect jobs in businesses facing lower demand over the winter due to Covid, and is just one form of support on offer to employers during this difficult period.”