Yesterday's government announcement that full Covid vaccination will become a mandatory requirement to enter nightclubs and other ‘crowded venues' will be "completely impractical and open to fraud and abuse".
This was the widespread view among nightclub operators, who greeted the news with anger and bewilderment.
Just hours after nightclubs were able to open again for the first time in 16 months, prime minister Boris Johnson dealt a body blow to the industry when he said that proof of a negative Covid test would no longer be acceptable to attend such venues.
"By the end of September when all over 18s will have had their chance to be double jabbed, we're planning to make full vaccination the condition of entry to nightclubs and other venues where large crowds gather," he said.
The announcement has caused frustration throughout the sector, having been assured by various government ministers in recent weeks that such a condition would not be necessary.
Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night-Time Industries Association (NITA), said: "So, ‘freedom-day' for night clubs lasted around 17 hours then… The announcement from the prime minister that Covid passports will be made mandatory for night clubs in September comes after his health secretary said only one week ago that they would not be compulsory. What an absolute shambles."
Kill said that around 80% of nightclubs do not want to implement Covid passports, as they are worried about difficulties with enforcing the system and a reduction in spontaneous consumers: "This will also put them at a competitive disadvantage with pubs and bars that aren't subject to the same restrictions and yet provide similar environments.
"The government's own report into vaccine passports found they were more trouble than they're worth – so what could possibly explain the about turn, just as millions across the UK experience their first taste of a night out in a year and a half…?"
Alex Proud, founder of Proud Cabaret, which operates two venues in London and one in Brighton, said he morally disagreed with the introduction of identity papers on any level and described the requirement as "another massive U-turn by the government" which would be completely impractical to operate.
"I am massively disappointed. It is unsettling for customers," he said.
"The complete farce is that the final of Euro 2020 took place with a near full stadium where they gave up on Covid testing, where it has been found that it is easy to register fraudulent results following a lateral flow test. If Wembley, where you had the prime ministers and cabinet ministers attending, couldn't make it work, how can you expect nightclubs to monitor this?"
Proud said that around 20 to 30% of his staff had already tested positive with the Delta variant: "My hope is that herd immunity will save us from this disaster as by September most under 30s will have caught the virus."
A key criticism of the government surrounded the confusing messaging around legal requirements making it difficult to plan going forward.
"If the government had planned this and announced it as a part of the ‘roadmap' back in February, we could have implemented this, but everything is so upside down," said Aaron Mellor, group managing director of Tokyo Industries, which which runs 45 nightclubs and music venues across the UK.
"Nightclubs are again being singled out. In reality what is the difference to a city centre Yates at midnight on a Saturday and a nightclub at midnight on a Saturday?"
However, Mellor said the one positive to come out of the announcement was that it looked like the reclosure of nightclubs, as has happened in Amsterdam, is not currently being considered.
Uncertainty surrounded what was meant by the announcement regarding "other venues where large crowds gather". No details have yet been published as to whether the requirement for double vaccinations will be necessary for attendance at events in hotels, theatres, cinemas or sports stadia.
The Cabinet Office has yet to respond to The Caterer's request for details of how businesses are expected to monitor the requirement for double vaccinations.
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