Meet the nightclub boss helping to drive the city’s vaccine uptake

Nightclub boss Lawrence Barton is urging young adults to get vaccinated

It’s well documented that the vaccine uptake has slowed among those aged 18 to 25, despite doctors warning that increasing numbers of young people with coronavirus are being admitted to hospital in the UK.

According to Government data, more than half of under-30s in Birmingham have yet to receive a Covid-19 vaccine weeks after they were invited to get their first jab.

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But a city nightclub boss is hoping to help change these worrying statistics.

Lawrence Barton, owner of The Nightingale Club in the city’s gay village, allowed his venue to be used as a pop-up Covid-19 vaccination centre on Saturday afternoon, August 7.

The event was a success, with many turning up for their first jab.

Now Lawrence is liaising with the NHS over plans to host further pop-up vaccination events in his club.

“We didn’t know how successful it would be,” said Lawrence. “It could have been a complete failure, and attempting to attract young people in particular – primarily the ages of 18 to mid 20s - isn’t easy. There’s some reluctance and resistance so we didn’t know how well it would go but it was a successful day.”

Lawrence Barton

Lawrence approached the NHS in January, offering the health service the chance to use his nightclub as a vaccination centre in its entirety while it was closed.

“BrewDog set the example of offering their premises to the NHS, which was amazing and I thought that was a really great idea so I spoke to several MPs and council leaders but it came to nothing,” he said.

“Fortunately, somebody who works for me in the club knows someone in the NHS which is how the pop-up idea came about.”

After promoting the event on social media, Lawrence said he was really pleased to welcome people who turned up to get their first jab.

“I was there for a few hours on the Saturday and people came through who had not had any vaccination so far – they didn’t express strong views one way or the other for the reasons as to why they hadn’t had it yet, but the bottom line was they hadn’t had a jab before but they but now they’ve received a jab because of the pop-up.

“So we’re reaching those who had not been vaccinated before, and that’s great. I just think communication around the vaccination rollout has not been particularly great - If you can reach out respectfully and persuasively to those who might have been hesitant, rather than bullying, it can work.”

The Nightingale Club, Birmingham

‘Vaccines are the way forward’

Lawrence acknowledged that the lower vaccine uptake among those under 30, which make up a large portion of his nightclub’s customers, is a concern for businesses like his.

He said: “I’m on the ground in the nightclub speaking to people, and I’ve spoken to members of my own staff and security staff who have been reluctant to want the vaccine; there are people who are anti- vax who work for me as well and we’ve had a real challenge because you do need to get it.

“But we’ve had open dialogues with them, and surely somewhere along the line someone has to take some level of responsibility to try and help.”

Although he says he’s not against vaccination passports, Lawrence says the way in which the idea has been put forward may have turned people off the idea.

“With the passports it’s seemed a bit like a ‘if you don’t do this you won’t be able to do that’ type of situation, and I think that’s probably why there is more resistance to the idea.”

“But because of the potential of the spread of the virus in environments like nightclubs I do welcome any type of process which is going to protect the welfare of people and my customers.”

Vital for business

The nightclub industry has been decimated financially as a result of lockdowns, and it’s no secret that the more people who are vaccinated would help businesses like Lawrence’s by creating a safer environment.

“If people do resist the passports and haven’t had the jab then they aren’t going to be able to come into those environments if it’s mandated for, and of course that poses a risk to my club and all of the hospitality sector which has already been damaged.”

More pop-ups planned

After the success of the pop-up last month, Lawrence is hoping to host as many as viably possible in the future.

Lawrence said: “We want to host as many as we can and do anything we can do to encourage everyone to get the vaccine.”