Portsmouth nightclub Astoria welcomes government's u-turn on Covid passports that would have used nightlife as a 'bribe'

THE owner of the Astoria nightclub in Portsmouth has said he is ‘delighted’ over the government seemingly scrapping plans for Covid passports.

By Richard Lemmer
Monday, 13th September 2021, 3:42 pm
Revelers outside The Astoria nightclub in Portsmouth's city centre celebrate the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions at 12.01am on Monday, July 19.
Revelers outside The Astoria nightclub in Portsmouth's city centre celebrate the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions at 12.01am on Monday, July 19.

Businessman Alistair Ritchie said his industry was being used a ‘bribe’ to make younger people get the vaccination.

He made his comments after the announcement the measure won’t be introduced automatically at the end of this month.

The businessman, who has repeatedly spoken out over the government’s nightlife policies, said: ‘We’re delighted that our industry won’t be used to bribe young people into having a Covid vaccination, whilst we encourage people to have the jab to protect the wider community, we think it’s right that people should have the option to make up their own mind.’

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In July, prime minister Boris Johnson announced that full vaccination against Covid-19 would be required for entry to all nightclubs and crowded venues from the end of September.

Less than a fortnight ago vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said the measure was the ‘right thing to do’ – but now health secretary Sajid Javid has said the plan has been shelved.

Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, Mr Javid said: ‘We just shouldn't be doing things for the sake of it or because others are doing, and we should look at every possible intervention properly.

‘We've looked at it properly and, whilst we should keep it in reserve as a potential option, I'm pleased to say that we will not be going ahead with plans for vaccine passports.’

He said he had ‘never liked the idea of saying to people you must show your papers’ to ‘do what is just an everyday activity’.

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But speaking to The Times, a Downing Street spokesman said that Covid passports remain ‘a crucial part of the government’s winter Covid plan’.

The owner of the Astoria said the government’s ‘erratic’ decision making meant ‘anything could still happen’ – and is still wary the measure could be put in place this winter.

He said: ‘We have had no guidance of what to check. We did have a basic plan but nothing set in stone.

‘There was a strong suspicion due to the lack of information coming to us from the government that they were likely to perform a U-turn, but with the government’s erratic decision making since the start of Covid, anything could still happen.’

The Astoria saw ‘mind-blowing’ trade when it reopened after 18 months in July, as revellers sank 2,000 bottles of vodka in under a week.

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