UNWORKABLE: Clubs welcome u-turn on vaccine passports
Soho on Albert Road, Image: LDRS
Nightclub bosses have welcomed a u-turn on rolling out vaccine passports for entry after fears they would have been “unworkable”.
Plans for revellers to provide proof they’d been double-jabbed to gain entry to clubs and large events were lined up to start at the end of this month.
However, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said they would “not be going ahead with plans for vaccine passports” on Sunday.
The initial proposals sparked a backlash from night-time industry leaders nationally and on Teesside.
Last week, Soho owner John Taylor branded the passport plan “absolutely farcical”, detrimental to the trade, and “unworkable”.
Ashley Wem, manager of the Middlesbrough Empire, also raised doubts about how vaccine passports would clash with existing laws and regulations.
Responding to the government u-turn, Mr Wem said the move was expected.
“They have obviously looked into the equality laws surrounding something like this and they’ve found it isn’t as easy as they thought,” he added.
“They can’t just make you do it as there’d be all sorts of laws which would have to be bypassed for it to be workable and manageable in venues – not just in small venues, but in large sporting arenas as well.
“It would have been very difficult for venues to police.
“It’s commonsense but to be expected.”
The shelved scheme would have required people to prove double vaccination, a negative test or that they’d finished self-isolating after a positive PCR test, to get into clubs and other crowded events.
Mr Taylor believed the right call had been made.
“The passport idea was unworkable and the government has made the right decision to scrap it,” he added.
“We can now concentrate on giving our customers who have supported us throughout more of the best nights at Soho.”
Gary Dobson, director of new Zetland Road club STEREO, also welcomed the change of heart.
He said: “The passport plans were essentially untenable and illogical and there were multiple factors which would have been discriminatory and legally questionable.
“As a sector, we can now move forward, without hesitation or vague regulations.”
Mr Javid announced a U-turn on the policy on Sunday after telling the BBC it would still be “kept in reserve as a potential option”.
A formal decision is still to be made by the government.
Bosses at Darlington’s Ignite nightclub were also relieved passports would not be brought in.
A spokesperson for the club said: “If the Government thought the best way forward was to have vaccine passports, then that is what we would have done.
“We want what is best to keep everyone safe.
“We are relieved that passports won’t be brought in. From a personal point of view, hopefully it means that we can still feel that life is returning to normal.
“If passports were introduced, we would have to take steps to ensure the regulations were met, which is more complicated.
“I’m glad that they’re not going to be introduced.
“Nightclubs have been hit badly right from the start. I can understand why it’s a little bit harder to socially distance yourself when you’re in a nightclub.
“But when there were other areas in the hospitality sector where they weren’t socially distancing, it did feel like we were being targeted.”
Sector “at the sharp end”
The topic of vaccine passports arose at last week’s Middlesbrough health scrutiny panel.
South Tees public health chief Mark Adams told councillors he thought they were a “reasonable thing to do” to encourage younger people to take up jabs.
But he also believed the plan “hadn’t been thought through”.
“It’s a bit of a kind of scattergun approach,” he added.
Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), hoped the decision would offer more certainty to firms.
Mr Kill said: “We hope that businesses will now be able to plan for the future with some degree of certainty, regain confidence from customers and the workforce and start to rebuild a sector that has consistently been at the sharp end of this pandemic.
“Our focus now is to ensure that the Chancellor’s October budget allows us the financial space to rebuild and for the industry to maintain its exemplary record in support of the public health strategy keeping our staff and our customers safe.”
Words: Poppy Kennedy and Alex Metcalfe Local Democracy Reporter
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