Covid-19 vaccine passports: Birmingham nightclubs react

The government’s Plan B measures will mean that nightclubs will be required to check the Covid status of visitors

The government’s new Plan B measures will mean nightclub customers will have to show ‘vaccine passports’ to gain entry, if agreed in Parliament tonight (Tuesday, December 14).

From tomorrow, Wednesday, 15 December, certain venues will be required to check the Covid status of customers over the age of 18 in a bid to tackle the spread of the Omicron variant.

The NHS Covid pass, which can be obtained by having two vaccines or a negative lateral flow test, will be introduced for entry into nightclubs and other large venues from 15 December.

The passes will also apply to unseated indoor venues with more than 500 attendees, and outside where there are more than 4,000 people.

As part of the plan to halt the spread of the virus, the government has also issued work-from-home guidance and mandatory mask wearing as part of the Plan B measures, as the UK’s hospitality sector braces itself for a huge hit in Christmas revenues.

Birmingham nightclub bosses have told of their frustration at the new rules.

‘Why are nightclubs being targeted?’

Lawrence Barton, the owner of the Nightingale Club in the city’s Gay Village, and chairman of Southside BID, says he believes nightclubs are being unfairly targeted.

Speaking to BirminghamWorld, he said: “I don’t see why nightclubs are being targeted when you look at the proportion of the people who use them within society.

“Why have nightclubs been targeted and why hasn’t non-essential retail been targeted when tens of thousands of people are swarming into shops and it’s like a free for all with very little control - why is it that a fraction of people in society that use nightclubs are being targeted?

“Tens of thousands of people are inside shops in uncontrolled environments without any passports, so to me it doesn’t make sense.”

Lawrence Barton, owner of the Nightingale Club in BirminghamLawrence Barton, owner of the Nightingale Club in Birmingham
Lawrence Barton, owner of the Nightingale Club in Birmingham

Lawrence also questioned just how effective vaccine passports will be.

He said: “If you’ve had the vaccine you can still get disease and if you’ve had the vaccine you can still pass on the disease.

“So I don’t quite know what the purpose of the passport is really.

“I’m yet to be convinced by any data that’s been conducted that would convince me of the real reason as to why passports are being introduced and what purpose they actually serve.”

The Nightingale Club, BirminghamThe Nightingale Club, Birmingham
The Nightingale Club, Birmingham

Lawrence says further restrictions in the future could be devastating for the industry.

“It’s another kick at an already very damaged sector,” he said.

“We’ve only had five months of the last two years trading and it’s supposed to be our busiest time.

“It’s just awful timing, but that can’t be controlled with the Omicron variant and the increase we are seeing in infection rates.”

Mike Olley,  General Manager, Westside BIDMike Olley,  General Manager, Westside BID
Mike Olley, General Manager, Westside BID

‘Vaccine passports will be difficult to near impossible to administer’

Mike Olley, general manager of Westside BID said the government guidelines are a “triple-whammy for entertainment venues in and around Birmingham’s ‘golden mile’”.

He said: “Day time trading will be hit by businesses shifting back to working from home guidance, and the latest face mask guidance will confuse customers and hit their confidence.

“The Covid passport will also be difficult to near impossible to administer as venues are already fully stretched at providing quality door and venue security for customers.

“Having to spend extra time checking every customer’s phone for their Covid vaccinations records will be a nightmare, and will lead to queues, frustration and a further hit to confidence.”

Mr Olley is backing UK Hospitality’s calls for urgent financial support for the hospitality industry to soften the blow through full business rates relief, grants, rent protection and extended VAT reductions.

The calls also include redirecting unspent grants available to the sector or by introducing new alternatives such as a discretionary fund to be administered by local authorities.

‘The measures will impact consumer convidence’

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, said: “The measures will significantly impact consumer confidence and be particularly devastating to city and town centre venues.

“As such, they risk devastating the hospitality sector amid its most important time of the year.

“We therefore desperately need support if we are to survive this latest set of restrictions and urge the government to stand behind our industry.”

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