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Mon 5th Oct 2020 - Legal challenge to 10pm curfew is mounted
Legal challenge to 10pm curfew is mounted: Barristers from Kings Chambers have been instructed by Jeremy Joseph, owner of GAY, to challenge the 10pm curfew. The pre-action protocol for judicial review has been served to challenge the government’s decision to implement a national curfew of 10pm on hospitality premises. The legal team has written to the secretary of state, Matt Hancock at the Department of Health and Social Care with a formal challenge to the 10pm curfew. Jeremy Joseph said: “The 10.00pm curfew which has now been in place for the last two weeks and has been detrimental to the hospitality sector, including GAY, 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 10.00pm 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 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. Matt Hancock and Boris Johnson have to be made accountable and today we have instructed our legal team with the support of the NTIA to serve the government with a Pre-Action Protocol for Judicial Review to challenge the decision to implement the national curfew of 10.00pm on the hospitality sector.” Michael Kill chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, said: “The implementation of the 10.00pm 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 10.00pm, creating mass gatherings on the street and overcrowding public transport.”

Cineworld to temporarily close more than 650 cinemas affecting 45,000 staff: Cineworld has confirmed the temporary closure of its UK and US cinemas. The company stated: “In response to an increasingly challenging theatrical landscape and sustained key market closures due to the covid-19 pandemic, Cineworld confirms that it will be temporarily suspending operations at all of its 536 Regal theatres in the US and its 127 Cineworld and Picturehouse theatres in the UK from Thursday, 8 October 2020. As major US markets, mainly New York, remained closed and without guidance on reopening timing, studios have been reluctant to release their pipeline of new films. In turn, without these new releases, Cineworld cannot provide customers in both the US and the UK – the company’s primary markets – with the breadth of strong commercial films necessary for them to consider coming back to theatres against the backdrop of covid-19. These closures will impact approximately 45,000 employees. Cineworld will continue to monitor the situation closely and will communicate any future plans to resume operations in these markets at the appropriate time, when key markets have more concrete guidance on their reopening status and, in turn, studios are able to bring their pipeline of major releases back to the big screen. Cineworld’s main priorities remain the safety of customers and employees, cash preservation and cost reduction. As noted in its Interim Results announced on 24 September 2020, Cineworld is assessing several sources of additional liquidity and all liquidity raising options are being considered.” Mooky Greidinger, chief executive of Cineworld, added: “This is not a decision we made lightly, and we did everything in our power to support safe and sustainable reopenings in all of our markets – including meeting, and often exceeding, local health and safety guidelines in our theatres and working constructively with regulators and industry bodies to restore public confidence in our industry. We are especially grateful for and proud of the hard work our employees put in to adapt our theatres to the new protocols and cannot underscore enough how difficult this decision was, Cineworld will continue to monitor the situation closely and will communicate any future plans to resume operations in these markets at the appropriate time, when key markets have more concrete guidance on their reopening status and, in turn, studios are able to bring their pipeline of major releases back to the big screen.”

Rishi Sunak defends discount meal scheme – and expresses frustration over 10pm curfew: Chancellor Rishi Sunak has defended his Eat Out To Help Out scheme – and revealed his frustration at the 10pm pub curfew. In an interview with The Sun, he bit back at claims that the cut-price meals deal fuel-led a second wave of coronavirus. He insisted the scheme helped to save two million jobs and kick-start the economy. He said: “I don’t think it’s wrong for people to want to strive for normality and I don’t think it’s wrong for the government to want that for people.” Asked if he had any regrets over the discount scheme, Mr Sunak said: “No, no, no, no, definitely not. We had an industry that I care deeply about because of employment. It’s over two million people.” And he pointed to low cases of second-wave covid in the south west, claiming that region made the most use of the scheme. Of the 10pm curfew, he said: “Of course it’s frustrating. I know it’s difficult and wish we didn’t have to do these things. Our job is to debate policy and come to the right collective answer but the advice of our scientists was that this would make a difference and there we go. It’s one of the measures that we put in place but, you know what, we haven’t closed anything down and that is a good thing.” But he repeatedly stressed: “Is it frustrating, right? Everyone is very frustrated and exhausted and tired about all of this.”

Jenrick – help for eateries should continue: Cuts to business rates and eased restrictions on al fresco dining could become permanent features of government policy, Robert Jenrick has said. Addressing the Conservative Party conference, the housing secretary said that he would “definitely” like to continue many of the temporary policies implemented by the government to help high streets weather the pandemic. Retail, hospitality and leisure venues are exempt from paying business rates for this financial year and restaurants no longer have to apply for specific licences to set up tables on pavements or to serve takeaway. “I don’t see any reason why we would ask cafés and restaurants to go back to the way it used be before where they couldn’t be takeaways and do delivery services without special licensing or other expensive licences to put tables and chairs outside on the streets,” he said, adding that it was the duty of a Conservative government to “reduce the regulatory burden”.

Osmond argues government loans are creating zombie basked cases: Sector investor Hugh Osmond has claimed that emergency government assistance designed to help companies through the pandemic could turn “once-viable businesses into zombie basket cases”. Osmond said that tens of billions of pounds of emergency loans were “just digging businesses further into trouble”. Writing in The Times he says that the chancellor’s loan schemes were “the morphine masking the pain of a life-threatening wound”, adding: “What the economy needs now is more equity investment. Equity, not debt, is the engine of recovery and growth.” Almost £60 billion has been lent via four taxpayer-backed lending schemes to businesses. While the government has said that companies will be given assistance to repay the loans, Osmond argued: “Loading debt upon debt might have kept things ticking over, but these schemes are turning once-viable businesses into zombie basket cases.” He said that it was unclear how much of the debt would be paid back because of the impact of new restrictions to curb a resurgence in infections. “Thanks to all the well-intentioned state interventions there are too many businesses carrying too much debt — all of which will need to be paid off, written off or restructured. The contractual obligations of debt are a millstone around the neck of businesses.”

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