Pub bosses launch legal bid to allow boozers to open early in lockdown roadmap

Two UK nightlife heavyweights have launched a legal challenge against the government after complaints that the hospitality industry is being treated unfairly against the retail sector.

Under the current Covid roadmap announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson pubs, bars and restaurants are not due to open for inside drinking until May 17, while non-essential shops have been given the go-ahead to open on April 12.

Hugh Osmond, the founder of Punch Taverns and a former director of Pizza Express, and Sacha Lord, Greater Manchester's night time economy adviser, have submitted a claim that could see the government in court.

In a letter sent to the government's legal department, the two men have said there's "no evidence or justification for the prioritisation" of non-essential retail over hospitality.

They argue that the lengths pub and restaurant owners have gone to make establishments Covid secure means that they are safer than none essential retail.

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Lord told Sky News: "We want to open at exactly the same time as non-essential retail. This is not hospitality vs. non-essential retail, it's just fairness."

Mr Osmond said: "I believe we can show that discrimination and unsubstantiated beliefs, rather than facts, science and evidence, lie at the heart of much of the Government's approach to hospitality, and these wrongs need to be righted.

"This legal case will give a fighting chance to over three million people who work in hospitality, to the tens of thousands of businesses, suppliers, landlords and contractors – large and small – forced into bankruptcy, and to millions of our loyal customers who have been deprived of the human social interaction they experience in our premises."

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Some hospitality settings will be able to open on April 12 provided that customers drink and eat outside, but this leaves many establishments without gardens and outside areas unable to open.

Mr Osmond added: "We won't ever be able to repair our health, recover our social lives or rebuild our economy if we allow our Government to lock us up and shut down the economy on the basis of such flawed logic, little justification or evidence.

"Our democracy should be better than this and on behalf of all those who have been affected by Government measures, and those of us who cherish British democracy and freedom, I hope our case can open up a chink of light at the end of this very dark chapter, so that we can – as the Prime Minister said – reclaim our lives and freedoms once and for all."

King and Osmond have also said that the roadmap could have a "potentially indirectly discriminatory effect" on young people and people from BAME backgrounds working in hospitality.

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