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Mon 15th Mar 2021 - Hugh Osmond – why I'm mounting a legal challenge over delayed sector re-opening
Hugh Osmond – why I’m mounting a legal challenge over delayed sector re-opening: Sector investor Hugh Osmond has explained why he is planning a legal challenge to the delayed re-opening of the hospitality sector. Writing in the Daily Mail, he stated: “Back in January the Prime Minister heralded the new covid vaccines as our ‘way out’ of lockdown. Since then more than 24 million people have been vaccinated but the government has been busily moving the goalposts and I don’t know a single person who understands why we are doing what we’re doing any more. Indoor ‘non-essential’ retail outlets will be allowed to reopen on 12 April while pubs, bars and restaurants will have to remain shut for another five weeks unless they have a garden or terrace they can use for outdoor dining. Not only does this long delay needlessly squander the benefits of the fast vaccination rollout, it is plainly irrational, unscientific and not based on evidence. So, along with Sacha Lord, night-time economy adviser for Greater Manchester, I wrote to the Prime Minister this weekend notifying him of our intention to take his government to court. 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. Our case follows Sacha’s successful challenge regarding the government’s ludicrous Scotch egg proposal last November. This ruling, you may recall, categorised the dish as a ‘substantial meal’ for the purposes of tier regulations which banned drinking in pubs unless food was ordered too. Judges confirmed that the measure ‘lacked a proper scientific evidential basis’ and found that where a government acts without evidence it risks having its decisions overturned. The government reversed its decision as a result. In the last 12 months tens of thousands of hospitality businesses – from landlords and restaurateurs to suppliers and contractors – have been forced into bankruptcy. By returning to court in a bid to have the end of the hospitality lockdown brought forward to April 12 we hope to provide a boost for the industry’s workforce – more than three million people – and the millions of loyal customers who have been deprived of the human social interaction they experience in our premises. Hospitality is essential for local communities, businesses and economies because our ability to socialise is critical to our mental health and – when it comes to covid – our sector is significantly safer than non-essential retail where the risk of transmission is higher. Why? Because last summer a vast amount of time, money and effort went into making hospitality venues ‘covid-secure’.We hired extra cleaners, implemented rigorous track-and-trace systems – complete with QR codes and phone apps – and developed strict one-way systems and table-only sit-down service so that customers could stay safely and socially distanced at their tables within their bubbles. Meanwhile, most hospitality venues have ventilation systems of a standard much higher than that defined by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies as sufficient to prevent airborne transmission. With all these measures in place, it is obvious that hospitality venues are safer than crowded shops. And, as a result, the number of outbreaks in hospitality venues was significantly lower than the totals reported in other venues, settings or workplaces. Public health directors such as Sheffield City Council’s Greg Fell tell us that ‘hospitality does not crop up as a terribly big factor’ and is ‘nowhere near the top’ of his ‘risk radar’. And yet – while we remain closed – from April 12 people will resume browsing and queuing in shops where they will walk around freely, touching surfaces and handles, picking up items and getting closer to other shoppers than they would if they were in a bar or restaurant. I understand the desire for caution and the imperative need for this to be the last lockdown we ever face. But 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. In the hospitality sector alone revenues have been slashed by £200 million a day and 660,000 jobs have been destroyed. Between now and 17 May – the date set for the indoor reopening of hospitality businesses – more than 3,500 pubs, bars and restaurants will close their doors for ever. 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. I hope our case can open up a chink of light at the end of this very dark chapter so that we can – as the Prime Minister said – ‘reclaim our lives and freedoms once and for all’.”

Propel Premium subscribers to receive access to Propel Multi Club Conference video on Wednesday: Propel Premium subscribers will receive access on Wednesday (17 March) to the video of the first Propel Multi Club Conference of the year. Premium subscribers should email anne.steele@propelinfo.com now to receive their code on Wednesday to view the conference. Speakers include Graeme Smith, managing director at AlixPartners; Dan Warne, founder of Sessions Market; Yishay Malkov, chief executive of Various Eateries; Victor Lugger, co-founder of the Big Mamma Group; Alex Reilley, chairman of Loungers; Salima Vellani, founder of host kitchen business KBox Global; Philip Turner, founder and chief executive of Chestnut Group; Neat Burger co-founder and head of operations Stasi Nychas; and Sarah Willingham, chief executive of bar company Nightcap. There are also two panel sessions. Fledgling concepts talk about evolving and growing in a covid-impacted world featuring Grace Regan, founder of SpiceBox; Carla Casadei, founder of Young Vegans; Oliver Hyde, founder of Flour Pot; Morten Jensen, founder of Light Bar & Market; and Marco Reick, director at Qoot. Meanwhile, leading sector players look at what comes next for the industry featuring Simon Wilkinson, chief executive of Byron; Steve Holmes, chief executive of Azzurri Group; Zoe Bowley, managing director of PizzaExpress; and Dermot King, chief executive of Oakman Inns. Propel Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out, discounts to attend Propel conferences and events, and regular columns from Propel insights editor Mark Wingett. Propel is also to improve its service for Premium subscribers by publishing a monthly updated list of multi-site operators – with a standalone report. The new multi-site list will be sent to subscribers at the end of each month with a report on new companies and changes in the list. A refreshed list of circa 1,600 companies will be sent out to all Premium subscribers at the end of March. It provides company names, the people in charge, how many sites each firm operates, its trading name and its registered name at Companies House if different, and what each business specialises in. In a new feature this year, there is a synopsis of what the business does and significant news associated with it. The list will then be updated at the end of each month. An annual premium subscription costs £395 plus VAT for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers. Email anne.steele@propelinfo.com

Deliveroo confirms flotation plan: Deliveroo has confirmed its intention to float this morning. The company stated: “The offer will comprise of new shares to be issued by the company (raising gross proceeds of approximately £1 billion) and existing shares to be sold by certain existing shareholders. The company will have two classes of ordinary shares, ‘Class A Shares’ and ‘Class B Shares’. The Class B Shares will, on admission, be held solely by Deliveroo’s founder and chief executive officer, Will Shu. On a poll, holders of the Class A Shares shall be entitled to one vote for every Class A Share, and Will Shu, as the sole holder of the Class B Shares shall be entitled to 20 votes for every Class B Share held. Only the Class A Shares will be offered in the IPO and admitted to the Standard Listing segment of the Official List of the FCA and to trading on the main market of the London Stock Exchange. The Class B Shares will not be admitted to listing or to trading on any stock exchange. The structure will last for three years from IPO. On the third anniversary of an IPO, the Class B Shares will automatically convert into Class A Shares.”

UK’s largest indoor golf experience to launch: The UK’s largest indoor golf experience is to launch, in East Grinstead. The venture, Kings Golf Studio, is the brainchild of former European Tour professional Gary King and financial adviser Joe Favata. Kings Golf Studio, which will be based in The Atrium leisure complex in the West Sussex town, will offer 13,000 square feet of the highest specification state-of-the-art golf technology, simulators on some of the best golf courses in the world, virtual reality driving range, lounge, restaurant and bar. The venue is currently being fitted out after the pair agreed a deal with landlord Panther that was brokered by agents DMR. Richard Souber, director at DMR, who acted on the deal, said: “We were looking for a way to reinvigorate The Atrium after lockdown and we have a number of other exciting initiatives planned alongside the new golf studio, but it’s a great start.” The Atrium is also home to a Scott cinema and JD Wetherspoon pub.

Merlin to open UK’s first flying theatre ride as part of new multimillion-pound world at Legoland Windsor: Merlin Entertainments is to open the UK’s first flying theatre ride as part of a new multimillion-pound world at Legoland Windsor. Standing at more than 25 metres tall, the Flight of the Sky Lion ride will be at the heart of Lego Mythica, the new area that marks the park’s single biggest investment since the gates opened 25 years ago. Swooping over the landscape, families on the Flight of the Sky Lion ride will come face-to-face with the realm’s many characters, including the two-headed Hydra (Duo), Fire and Ice Bird (Crystal Flame) and the Greek mythology-inspired Chimera creature. Other rides as part of the new land are two drop towers named Fire and Ice Freefall as well as the Hydra’s Challenge water attraction. There will be an adventure play area called Lava Dragon Play along with The Hungry Troll restaurant and Beastly Bites snack bar. Legoland Windsor divisional director Helen Bull said: “We’re thrilled to be bringing the first flying theatre ride to the UK. The whole country has never needed escapism more than they do right now and we’ve worked closely with children and their families to make sure our new land delivers the thrills for everyone.” Subject to government guidelines, Lego Mythica will open on Saturday, 29 May.

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