Business News Legal Live Business

Court declines to review 10pm COVID curfew, though G-A-Y owner fights on

By | Published on Friday 30 October 2020


The owner of London venue Heaven, and the G-A-Y venues and club nights, has vowed to continue to fight for a judicial review of the UK government’s 10pm COVID curfew, even though the courts have initially declined to hear the case.

G-A-Y boss Jeremy Joseph announced earlier this month that he would go to court to fight the government’s decision that all hospitality businesses should close at 10pm in a bid to tackle the second spike of COVID-19. Under that rule, venues and theatres can have performances that run past 10pm, but their bars and cafes must also close at that time.

Like many night-time and hospitality business owners, Joseph argues that the 10pm curfew is pointless and counter-productive, and means that many such businesses that had just about found a way to operate while adhering to social distancing rules are now operating at a loss.

Joseph adds that the government has provided no scientific evidence to back up the need for the curfew. He also points out that the main outcome of the rule is that – with all bars and restaurants now closing at the same time – town and city centres, and public transport networks, are super busy between 10pm and 11pm, making social distancing on high streets, buses and trains more or less impossible. Thus increasing the risk of COVID spreading.

After the government failed to respond to Joseph’s threat of legal action with any scientific studies to justify the curfew, he formally launched judicial review proceedings, which is where courts review government decisions and, more importantly, the decision making processes of ministers and officials. However, this week, having reviewed submissions by both G-A-Y and the government, the courts refused permission for that judicial review to proceed.

That said, G-A-Y’s legal reps have one more opportunity to argue the case for a judicial review to go ahead on this issue, this time presenting oral rather than written arguments.

Confirming that its initial bid for judicial review had been unsuccessful, the G-A-Y company said in a statement: “The good news is that there is still the chance for our lawyers to argue before a judge why the case should be allowed to go ahead and for a judge to make a different decision. This can happen, so we have decided not to give up”.

With that in mind, the company added, “we have instructed our lawyers to renew the application for the court’s permission to go ahead, but this time we will be arguing for permission at an oral hearing. We still haven’t seen evidence that comes close to justifying the curfew. If the government had something convincing we would have hoped to have seen it by now. It doesn’t”.

Managing expectations, G-A-Y confirmed that the oral hearing would be the final opportunity to push for judicial review. If the judge remains unconvinced after that hearing, then no such review can take place.

Obviously, while this has all been ongoing, COVID rules around the UK have changed again, with a number of regions ramping up the restrictions and forcing those night-time and hospitality businesses that had re-opened to close again. However, G-A-Y argues that the 10pm curfew remains damaging in those regions where bars and restaurants are allowed to operate, and will make it harder for those businesses currently closed to re-open when the more severe restrictions are lifted.

In its statement, the company concluded: “This will not be easy, but we are continuing because G-A-Y believes the 10pm curfew is crippling hospitality and is not helping stop the transmission of the virus. So round one may be lost but the battle is not over. As soon as we have a date for the oral hearing, we will update you”.

G-A-Y is backed by the Night Time Industries Association in its bid to challenge the 10pm curfew. Commenting on the latest developments, its CEO Michael Kill said: “We are disappointed with the initial decision from the court, but feel very strongly that the case that the G-A-Y legal team has presented is the right argument, and that it is one that a court needs to hear. At present we are still not satisfied that we have received anything that even remotely substantiates the supposed benefits of the 10pm curfew”.