Restaurants across Birmingham and the West Midlands are seeking a judicial review of the government’s decision to close hospitality within the highest Covid-19 restriction areas.
A class action is being made on behalf of 256 restaurants – the vast majority of them in Birmingham – under the heading of the Birmingham Hospitality Group.
They are demanding that the government produces more scientific data in support of its decision to close pubs and restaurants, apart from takeaways, in Tier 3 zones.
And, if the government is unable to provide the data, the legal action calls for greater financial support for businesses to prevent them going under, or allow venues to trade as normal.
The lead complainant in the class action is Sam Morgan, owner of Craft restaurant, located on The Terrace at the International Convention Centre, and 8 restaurant in Centenary Square, both of which are in the Westside Business Improvement District area.
He said documents in support of the class action were being served on the prime minister’s office by 5pm today. (Dec 4).
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Mr Morgan said: “The class action calls on the government to provide one of three things, starting with more substantial data in support of their findings.
“If they cannot provide it, then they need to provide more substantial support for these businesses to survive, as some are on the verge of insolvency because of the Government’s arbitrary action.
“And, if they cannot provide numbers one and two, then they need to allow us to trade with relevant safety restrictions.”
Mr Morgan said the restaurants were taking legal action because of the “arbitrary and discriminatory action by the government in respect of the hospitality industry”.
He added: “Non-essential shops, gyms, and hair and beauty have been allowed to re-open but hospitality venues are still locked down. The treatment of the pub, bar and restaurant sectors seems particularly harsh and discriminatory.
“The government is saying they need to take action in order for Christmas to go ahead in the non-Covid secure environment of someone’s home, but not in the secure environment of hospitality venues.
“The government can’t just take any unilateral decision it wants to without being accountable to the public.”
Meanwhile, business leaders in Greater Birmingham have written to Chancellor Rishi Sunak in a bid to ensure more than £1bn in returned Covid-19 support cash is used to help the hardest-hit firms.
The letter from Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce calls on the Chancellor to ring-fence funds returned to the Treasury to support businesses in sectors that have been significantly impacted by the pandemic – and those who have missed out on existing schemes.
It follows reports that supermarket giants Tesco, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s have returned more than £1bn in business rates relief.
The letter, co-signed by Chamber chief executive Paul Faulkner and president Steve Allen, says: “Through recent media reports we have become aware that over £1bn in business rates relief alone is expected to be returned by Tesco, Morisons and Sainsbury’s.
“We are also aware of a small number of local businesses intending to return Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme payments.
“We appreciate that resources are limited and that the Government has already delivered an unprecedented package of support for impacted businesses. But these unprecedented times are not over yet.
“We believe these unexpected funds – which had already been allocated to supporting businesses – should be ring-fenced and used to support those businesses, (and their suppliers), most impacted by the current economic climate and COVID measures and those excluded from current support schemes.”