Nightclubs and Bar Owners push back on 'suggested' use of Covid passports

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 Nightclub and bar owners have pushed back on government suggestions they ask customers to show vaccine passports to enter from 19 July.

Ministers yesterday published guidance for businesses which asked venues to "consider" using the NHS Covid pass when restrictions are eased in England on Monday.

It stated government will work with organisations such as nightclubs to use the system as a condition of entry.

But industry bosses warned such checks would be difficult to enforce and discriminate against younger people who have not yet been fully vaccinated and form the majority of their audience.

Tokyo Industries, which runs 45 UK nightclubs and music venues, is reopening most sites at one minute past midnight on 19 July and will not be asking for Covid passports.

Its chief executive Aaron Mellor said the NHS system had "numerous flaws" and could create crowd control issues in clubs with security distracted by Covid checks.

"Two weeks ago we were assured Covid passports breached equality and would not be pursued, to be told five days from re-opening that nightclubs are ‘urged' to support [such a scheme] feels more to us like a marketing stunt to pressure reluctant 18-25 years into vaccination compliance," he said.

Current advice on vaccine passports is that they will not be mandatory for businesses. However, in separate guidance published earlier this week the government said it "reserves the right" to force venues to require certification in "at a later date if necessary".

This is despite health secretary Sajid Javid saying on 5 July that vaccine passports would not be required.

Peter Marks, chief executive of nightclub group Rekom UK, which owns 42 sites including Pryzm and Bar&Beyond, said ministers had unfairly "singled out" the industry for extra restrictions.

"Nightclubs have the best in class ventilation systems changing the air once every five minutes, can sanitise and clean as well as any other open hospitality venue and there is no difference between a club at midnight and most pubs at midnight," he said.

"We take public health seriously and have sat back and accepted our position to be amongst the last [to reopen]. Our procedures, ventilation and crowd control measures mean that any risk assessed is no worse than retail or others in hospitality."

Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), said the government had shown a lack of understanding of the sector and questioned why other close-contact environments were not also advised to use Covid passports.

He said: "[It] will only lead to suggestions that the late night sector is being unfairly targeted."

Rekom UK said it remains in consultation with the government over the issue.

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