The owner of the G-A-Y bars and clubs is launching a legal challenge to the UK government’s 10pm curfew on hospitality venues.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the 10pm closing time for pubs, bars and restaurants in England on 24 September. The government says the strict curfew is to combat coronavirus.
However it caused anger in the hospitality industry. Jeremy Joseph, who owns three G-A-Y venues in London and one in Manchester, says the rule ‘makes absolutely no sense’.
Indeed, many argue the curfew makes people less safe. It forces large numbers of customers to leave venues at the same time. And photos on social media show them consequently crowding together in the streets, in stores to buy more alcohol, and on public transport.
In a statement, Joseph says: ‘The 10pm curfew which has now been in place for the last two weeks and has has been detrimental to to the hospitality sector, including G-A-Y, makes absolutely no sense.
‘It does the opposite of protecting people by pushing them onto 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.
‘The government has failed to show why the 10pm curfew was put in place and has published no scientific evidence to substantiate its implementation.
‘It seems to direct the blame for this action on the sector, consistently treating the nightime economy as a scapegoat.
‘In fact, we have years of operational experience of keeping customers safe, and have spent substantial time and effort making sure our venues are COVID secure.
‘Enough is enough.’
From rebellion threat to legal challenge
The G-A-Y group, which includes legendary LGBT+ nightclub Heaven, has partnered with the Night Time Industries Association.
Their lawyers have today served the government with a ‘Pre-Action Protocol for Judicial Review’ to challenge the 10pm curfew.
Joseph has been a vocal critic of the government’s approach to tackling coronavirus and its support for businesses like his.
As the pandemic first hit Britain, he criticized Johnson for telling people to avoid venues without formally forcing them to close. At the time he said ‘Boris Johnson, you are a c**t’ and argued he ‘should look after businesses as long as they look after their staff’.
Moreover, just last week he said the curfew was devastating for bars.
He told GSN: ‘Now we are losing money every day. It has really impacted us in a bad way.
‘Venues have spent thousands of pounds to make their venues safe. This is not fair.’
At the time, he suggested venues gather together to break the curfew. He argued this would challenge the government to justify the rules. Now his approach has shifted to allow a challenge while remaining within the law.
‘Considerable rise in the infection rate’
Meanwhile the government has responded to the new legal challenge.
In its response, it suggests the number of new COVID-19 cases linked to venues has risen. Previously this number was very slow, with most infections coming from social gatherings in homes and other private premises.
A government spokesperson said: ‘Our measures strike a balance between saving lives by protecting our NHS and the most vulnerable and minimising the wider impact on the economy and schools.
‘The latest data suggests a considerable rise in the infection rate following people socialising in hospitality venues serving alcohol in recent weeks. So we have taken immediate action to cut the transmission rate and save lives and will keep all measures under constant review.
‘The 10pm closure allows people to continue to socialise while reducing the risk of failing to socially distance.’
Gay Star News