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By Chris Cooke | Published on Monday 12 October 2020
The boss of London’s Heaven venue, and the G-A-Y bars and club nights, confirmed on Friday that he has now formally begun judicial review proceedings against the UK government’s current 10pm curfew for hospitality businesses.
Jeremy Joseph announced his intent to go legal over the curfew last week. Many in the live music and night-time sectors have argued that – while they support other COVID restrictions currently in place in the UK, however damaging they may be for individual live and nighttime firms – the 10pm cut-off for hospitality businesses seems random and badly thought out.
Joseph points out that ministers are yet to provide any scientific justification for the rule. Meanwhile, all hospitably businesses closing at the same time each evening results in large crowds suddenly appearing in the streets and on public transport, making social distancing impossible. And for many night-time businesses which had just about found a viable way of operating in line with other COVID rules, the curfew makes such operations impossible.
On Friday, Joseph said that the government had still not provided any evidence to support the 10pm curfew, despite his threat of legal proceedings. Instead, ministers have asked for a full fourteen days to respond to the G-A-Y boss’s demands.
However, a spokesperson for Joseph says: “Our response was clear; if this evidence existed [Health Secretary] Matt Hancock would surely have it to hand. Why the ‘dither and delay’? The fact is the government have still not provided any justification for a law that is putting customers, businesses and jobs at risk with every passing day”.
“We want G-A-Y venues to be safe, it’s how we operate”, they go on. “We agree with the other COVID-secure measures, such as track and trace, six person rule, table service and face coverings. These are all based on published scientific information. But the curfew simply is not and does not work. What we are seeing, first-hand, is our customers going from being safe in our venues to unsafe on crowded streets and busy public transport”.
Honing in on that latter point, the spokesperson continues: “The effect of the curfew actually goes against the government’s own guidance. We get no staggering, massive cumulative impact, overcrowding of public places and transport hubs – all circumstances in which COVID spreads. The curfew is not only thoughtless but threatens lives and likely leads to the increase of COVID contamination. It undermines all the good work being done by our NHS and our hospitality industry”.
Returning to the legal action, they conclude: “Since the Government will not engage with us, G-A-Y has been left with no choice but to take immediate action to protect hospitality and public safety. Today we have instructed our lawyers to issue judicial review proceedings against the government to challenge the arbitrary and nonsensical 10pm curfew. We need this government to work to protect hospitality whilst keeping customers safe”.
The legal action is supported by the Night Time Industries Association, whose CEO Michael Kill said on Friday: “Our sector has seen the systematic closure of businesses and the loss of thousands of jobs through curfews and restrictions enforced by government, which have no scientific basis”.
“Given the gravity of the decisions being made by government on restrictions, we had hoped that they may be able to respond and supply clear evidence for the decision to implement the 10pm curfew and further restrictions, but they have been unable to do this. This leaves no option for Jeremy Joseph, G-A-Y and [their] legal team but to follow through with proceedings”.
As Joseph’s legal challenge of the 10pm curfew proceeds, the government is likely to also face a separate challenge through the courts to the increased COVID measures expected to be announced later today, which will be initially focused on the north of England. Various organisations representing the hospitality sector, including NTIA, are likely to argue that – just like the curfew – those new measures are also not justified by credible scientific evidence.