Vaccine passports could ‘scupper’ pub reopening plans, say industry chiefs

Demanding proof of vaccination would be ‘difficult to implement’, says hospitality boss

Adam Forrest@adamtomforrest
Friday 02 April 2021 20:57
Covid vaccine passports ‘discriminatory’, says pub industry boss

Boris Johnson’s government could “scupper” pub owners’ reopening plans if Covid-19 vaccine passports are introduced after lockdown, hospitality chiefs have warned.

Vaccine certification will reportedly be piloted by the government at a series of major events this spring, despite growing resistance from MPs who feel that demanding proof of immunity is “discriminatory”.

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said vaccine passports would be unfair to customers yet to receive the jab – and a difficult system for venue owners to implement.

“We will play our part in test and trace, but the additional burden of the vaccine passport could really, really scupper things,” she told BBC Breakfast. “This would be an additional burden put on to the pubs. We are desperate to get back open again.

“It could make it feel that we are discriminating against sections of the population that have not been offered a vaccination or are unable to have one, like pregnant women, or a grandad who is probably going to forget his actual vaccine passport because he does not have it on his smartphone.”

Ms McClarkin added: “It is a difficult process for us to implement … and yet today we have not had a consultation with the government about how we would do this in pubs.”

The government reportedly intends to use vaccine certification at some of the pilot events running through the spring, including the FA Cup final, with participants being asked to use a modified NHS app to log details.

A cross-party group of over 70 MPs have launched a campaign against domestic vaccine passports, branding them “divisive and discriminatory”.

Although the government is still exploring how certification for different kinds of venues might work, Mr Johnson recently told MPs it may be left up to “individual publicans” as to whether they ask customers for proof they have had the jab.

Weatherspoon pub boss Tim Martin has said any requiring proof of vaccination would be “the last straw” for struggling owners who “are hanging on for dear life” after the winter shutdown.

“It would inevitably put pub staff in the frontline of a bitter civil liberties war, with some customers unwilling to be vaccinated or unable to have a jab for medical reasons,” he toldThe Telegraph.

Weatherspoon founder Tim Martin

Jonathan Neame, chief executive of the Shepherd Neame pub chain, has previously said the idea of vaccine passports was a “fairly poorly thought-out idea”. The Young’s pub chain has called certification “unworkable”, while the Greene King and City Pub Group chains are also opposed.

Hospitality bosses are also angry about the new guidelines set out by the government for the reopening of pubs and restaurants to outdoor drinking and dining from 12 April.

All customers will have to sign in to gain access to beer gardens and outdoor tables, not just one member of a group like last year.

In a joint statement, UK Hospitality, the British Beer and Pub Association and the British Institute of Innkeeping said on Thursday that the new rules add “more confusion and inconvenience”.

The hospitality chiefs also said it was still not clear whether their customers would be allowed to come indoors to make payments.

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