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Punch Taverns founder and Night-Time Economy Adviser for Greater Manchester issue pre-action letter over different reopening times for non-essential retail and indoor hospitality

The founder of Punch Taverns, Hugh Osmond, and the Night-Time Economy Adviser for Greater Manchester, Sacha Lord, have sent a pre-action letter to the government over the decision to allow non-essential retail to open at least five weeks before indoor hospitality.

Under the Government’s ‘roadmap’, non-essential retail outlets are set to be allowed to reopen on 12 April (‘Step 2’)

Hospitality venues will also be allowed to serve people outdoors from that date. However, indoor hospitality will only be allowed from ‘Step 3’, which will not be before 17 May.

Mr Lord tweeted that the Government had until Wednesday (17 March) to respond to the letter. He added that the claimants would ask that their case is expedited in the High Court.  

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“Hospitality should reopen the same day as non-essential retail,” he argued.

Writing in the Daily Mail, Mr Osmond claimed that the five weeks between Step 2 and Step 3 was “plainly irrational, unscientific and not based on evidence”.

He added: “When taking momentous and unprecedented actions affecting millions of its citizens, the Government must base its decisions on evidence, not prejudice, and should be held to account if it does not.”

Mr Osmond argued that the hospitality sector was significantly safer than non-essential retail where the risk of transmission was higher. “Why? Because last summer a vast amount of time, money and effort went into making hospitality venues ‘Covid-secure’.”

He said he understood the desire for caution “and the imperative need for this to be the last lockdown we ever face”. However he added that “if we are to impose lockdowns which have a catastrophic effect on the economy and our health and welfare, we must make sure these decisions stand up to scrutiny”.

Mr Osmond wrote: “It shouldn’t be difficult for the Government to justify its roadmap timetable if the science, data and evidence have been followed. But if the Government refuses to respond, we will issue judicial review proceedings without further notice.”

In February Judge Pearce gave Mr Lord and two other claimants permission for a legal challenge over the restriction on serving alcohol unless it is with a table meal. This requirement was subsequently dropped by the Government when it published the roadmap.

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