Portsmouth nightclub Astoria warns of lost trade and rejected punters over Covid-19 vaccine passport scheme that uses the industry 'as a bribe'
THE government is set to require Covid-19 vaccine passports at large venues in just a few weeks – but the industry and punters are nowhere near ready for the scheme, the owner of a Portsmouth nightclub has warned.
The Astoria nightclub in Guildhall Walk enjoyed a roaring re-opening last month as Covid-19 restrictions were lifted.
But now the venue is bracing for confusion, rejected punters, and lost trade as the government signals it will push ahead with a controversial vaccine passport scheme at the end of next month.
At a Downing Street press conference on Tuesday, a government representative said: ‘We are planning to make full vaccination the condition of entry to nightclubs and other venues where large crowds gather. Proof of a negative test will no longer be sufficient.’
But just over a week ago, a letter leaked to the Telegraph written on behalf of health secretary Sajid Javid said that ‘no final policy decision has yet been taken’ on the issue.
The owner of Astoria, Alistair Ritchie, said he was receiving up to 20 messages a day from prospective punters, asking about upcoming entry requirement – but a lack of communication from the government had made it impossible to give straight answers.
The businessman said: ‘We just have to keep replying, ‘please ask Boris’.
‘We are kept so in the dark and there are U-turns constantly.
‘It just went very quiet from the government...we’ve been give no information from the government.
‘We don’t even know what we’re supposed to be checking.’
The nightclub owner says there has been no confirmation about how venues are expected to check double vaccination status, and the nightclub currently does not have the means to check the QR codes that display vaccine status on the NHS app.
Efforts to reach Portsmouth’s young people have seen the rate of vaccinations decline over the summer – as first jabs for 18 to 24 year-olds went from 42 per cent to 62 per cent across July, but then increased just 3 per cent across August.
Mr Miyagi’s bar, which is part of the Astoria complex, host NHS Solent staff for a pop-up vaccine centre last month, in an effort to increase the number of young people taking jabs.
Now Alistair said there is ‘absolutely’ no doubt that patrons will be barred entry over passport confusion, frustrating the club’s brisk business since re-opening.
He added: ‘This is going to have a negative impact on an industry that has been among the worst hit throughout the pandemic.
‘Our businesses are being used as a bribe to force people to get a Covid-19 jab, which was originally described as an optional jab.’
In its first week of re-opening, Astoria’s party-starved clubbers sunk more than 15,000 cans of Redbull, 2,156 bottles of vodka, and 10,742 pints.
Alistair said: ‘We have seen more and more people coming from further afield.
Things have been very good – we have been really well supported by our clientele.’