Hospitality sector chiefs in the United Kingdom have lost their legal battle to force the government to bring forward the date for indoor drinking and dining in pubs and restaurants.
The High Court on Monday dismissed a lawsuit brought by Punch Taverns founder and former boss of Pizza Express, Hugh Osmond, and Sacha Lord, the night-time economy adviser for Greater Manchester and co-founder of the Parklife festival.
A judge ruled in favor of the government and said the case to reopen hospitality indoors was “academic” because any hearing was unlikely to take place until May 17, the date when pubs and restaurants in England are expected to welcome patrons inside anyway, the BBC reported.
Though rules vary in the other nations of the UK, pubs and restaurants in England were allowed to welcome customers back to outdoor areas from April 12, after a national lockdown.
But at the High Court last month, Lord and Osmond claimed 60 percent of hospitality venues did not have outdoor space, and argued that there was “no justification or scientific basis for hospitality to be kept closed for five weeks”, after retailers in England were allowed to serve customers indoors from mid-April.
Responding to the ruling in a statement, Lord said: “While this fight has always been an uphill battle … we are pleased that the case has shone a light on the hospitality sector and the unfair and unequal guidance within the recovery roadmap.
“Despite the outcome, we will continue to hold the government to account and demand evidence-based decisions, rather than those drafted without detailed analysis or based on bias or whim.”
The two men noted that just before the court’s decision, a report was published by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, known as SAGE, that found that the risks of “transmission in hospitality, retail and leisure are relatively low”, The Guardian reported.
Osmond said: “This case is not ‘academic’ for an industry that is losing 200 million pounds ($276m) 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.”
Quoted by the BBC, a UK government spokesperson said: “Our road map sets out a cautious approach to easing restrictions, based on the best scientific evidence available at the time. We published a full range of scientific papers alongside it, on Feb 22.
“It is widely acknowledged that the risk of transmission outdoors is significantly less than indoors, which is why businesses have already been able to open in some outdoor settings, ahead of indoor hospitality later this month,” they said.