The boss of London’s Heaven venue, and the G-A-Y bars and club nights, is taking the UK government to court over the 10pm curfew it introduced as part of its latest round of COVID restrictions.
The live music and night-time sectors argue that the government has been unable to demonstrate why such a curfew helps restrict the spread of COVID-19, and that the enforced early closure has had a major impact on those venues and night-time business that had just about found a way of operating while adhering to other COVID rules.
When instigating the curfew last month, the government insisted that doing so had proven effective in a pilot. However, to date, the industry’s demands to see data that backs up and justifies the restriction have not been met.
Many fear that ministers were motivated to introduce the curfew simply so that they could be seen to be doing something, given resistance within government to introduce further restrictions on schools, universities and workplaces, even though virus transmission rates are much, much higher in those places compared to bars and venues.
Industry reps also argue that the curfew could well be directly resulting in increased cases of the virus being transmitted, given that all restaurants, bars and venues are now forced to close at the same time, making cities and public transport systems unnecessarily busy at 10pm.
Also, the restriction will result in more house parties and unlicensed raves taking place, where none of the social distancing rules being adhered to by bars and venues will be properly enforced.
Explaining why he had decided to go legal over the curfew, G-A-Y boss Jeremy Joseph said this morning: “The 10pm curfew, which has now been in place for the last two weeks and has been detrimental 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”.
“This government has failed to show why the 10pm curfew was put in place and has published no scientific evidence to substantiate its implementation”, he went on. “It seems to direct the blame for this action on the sector, consistently treating the night-time economy as a scapegoat when, 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”.
Targeting the Health Secretary and Prime Minister directly, Joseph added: “Matt Hancock and Boris Johnson have to be made accountable and today we have instructed our legal team with the support of the Night Time Industries Association to serve the government with a pre-action protocol for judicial review to challenge the decision to implement the national curfew of 10pm on the hospitality sector”.
Barristers from Kings Chambers will work on the case alongside law firm Simpson Miller. Dan Rosenberg, a partner at the latter, stated: “Our clients are well aware of the need to prioritise the health of the public and are supportive of any measures that help control the virus. Ultimately, their businesses in the long term depend upon the virus being brought under control. However, while they have been supportive of other decisions made by government, including in relation to social distancing and other measures to protect the safety of their patrons, they fail to see the logic behind the arbitrary decision for all venues to close at 10pm”.
Confirming its support for Joseph’s legal case, Michael Kill, CEO of the NTIA, added: “The implementation of the 10pm curfew and further restrictions on the sector has had a catastrophic impact on business levels, resulting in thousands of businesses making the difficult decision to close the doors, or make staff redundant. The decision to implement a curfew makes no sense and has no published scientific or medical foundation to reduce transmission rates. If anything, it is counterproductive, with thousands leaving hospitality venues at 10pm, creating mass gatherings on the street and overcrowding public transport”.
“Jeremy and his team at G-A-Y have been long-standing members of the NTIA”, he continued. “We are fully supportive of the action he has taken to start pre-action protocol to judicially review the decision by government to implement the national curfew of 10pm on all hospitality sector businesses”.