Mr Justice Swift demanded an explanation from the Health Secretary after a legal challenge by Pizza Express founder Hugh Osmond and nightclub operator Sacha Lord. The two businessmen want hospitality venues to be allowed to open fully next Monday alongside all retail outlets.
Under the roadmap, they can only serve customers outside from April 12 and must wait until May 17 to welcome them inside. The judge has ordered the Department of Health to respond to the entrepreneurs’ judicial review application by 10am tomorrow.
An official is likely to represent Mr Hancock.
Mr Osmond, a 59-year-old multi-millionaire, said: “The Government left us no choice but to take it to court.
“This is a truly urgent matter affecting the lives of millions that simply cannot wait.”
Mr Lord, 49-year-old creator of the Manchester-based Parklife festival, added: “We currently see no clear justification for the delay.
“This is not a hospitality versus retail argument, but Government decisions must operate on a level playing field and be supported by evidence.
“We currently see no clear justification for the delay. The Government has failed to introduce any new evidence as to why indoor hospitality cannot open on April 12 alongside non-essential retail.
“We’re pleased beer gardens will be reopening from 12 April, many venues don’t have the space or financial capabilities to have an outdoor area. As we know very well in Manchester, the weather is not always kind.
“Operators have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds creating indoor Covid secure environments, as advised by ministers themselves.
“We firmly believe these regulated, ventilated venues have much safer measures and greater social distancing in place than retail stores.”
A Government spokeswoman said: “We want this lockdown to be the last. We have followed the science at all times which is why we are easing restrictions in a way that is cautious and in response to the latest evidence.”