English pubs and clubs group puts shutdown legal action on hold

FILE PHOTO: A staff member sweeps the pavement in front of a pub after closing time, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Manchester, Britain September 24, 2020. REUTERS/Molly Darlington

LONDON (Reuters) - A group of English pub and night club owners have paused plans for a legal challenge against new COVID-19 shutdowns after the government limited closures to the Merseyside region.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out new measures on Monday, but so far Liverpool and the surrounding area is the only one that will have to close pubs, clubs, gyms, leisure centres, betting shops, adult gaming centres and casinos.

Britain’s pub, restaurant, night club and event industry has been hammered by the coronavirus crisis and after months of lockdown in the spring, a second wave and new measures limiting socialising now threaten hundreds of thousands more jobs.

Sacha Lord, the creator and operator of Manchester’s Parklife festival and The Warehouse Project, said the group would meet their lawyers on Monday but only act if restrictions are placed on the city where he works.

“The plan is on hold,” Lord told Reuters. “We are still going to get the troops ready because obviously things are changing on a daily basis ... we are not out of the zone yet.”

Lord said before Johnson announced the new measures that he had the support of The Night Time Industries Association, the British Beer and Pub Association, JW Lees Brewery, Joseph Holts Brewery, New River Pub Company, and a host of other operators in the north west of England.

Night Time Industries Association Chief Executive Michael Kill said, citing Public Health England, that only 3-4% of cases could be traced back to hospitality venues, meaning any move to shut down the whole industry was “very unfair”.

“These new measures will have a catastrophic impact on late-night businesses, and are exacerbated further by an insufficient financial support package,” Kill said in a statement before Johnson laid out the government plans in parliament.

Reporting by Kanishka Singh, Sucharita Ganguly, Sarah Young and Andrew MacAskill; Editing by Gerry Doyle, Jan Harvey, Estelle Shirbon and Alexander Smith