Social distancing concerns as Portsmouth club Astoria bids to open from 4pm
A NIGHTCLUB in the spotlight after hundreds of people were seen outside queuing apparently flouting social distancing rules wants to extend its opening hours.
Popular venue Astoria in Guildhall Walk, Portsmouth, wants to open from 4pm – earlier than its current time of 7pm – as its hours have been cut short by the 10pm pandemic required closing time.
It comes after the club, currently operating as a pub, faced criticism last week.
Videos and photos shared on social media showed hundreds of people queuing closely together from the Astoria’s doors along Winston Churchill Avenue, opposite Portsmouth Crown Court.
The owner has insisted longer hours are needed to ‘protect jobs’ and that it is Covid secure with ‘measures approved by the local authority’.
City councillor Cal Corkery, who represents the ward that includes the club, is worried an earlier opening time could lead to breaches in social distancing.
He said: ‘A lot of people see Astoria as more of a club so the people that will be going there at the earlier time will be going for an evening party experience.
‘The earlier opening time is just going to encourage more daytime drinking which could lead to more social distancing breaches.
‘Last week images were circulating that showed they were unable to manage the crowds outside which was definitely a public health concern.’
Astoria owner Alistair Ritchie refused to comment on the images that circulated last week.
But he said longer opening hours were necessary to keep his staff in work.
‘I am protecting jobs that otherwise the government would not support,’ he said.
‘All our measures in place have been approved by the local authority.
‘By opening earlier we are looking to give a better experience for our customers.’
Recently the city's director of public health, Helen Atkinson, warned an increase in coronavirus cases in the area were mainly caused by ‘people in their 20s and 30s’.
Nightclubs, dance halls and discotheques are among the businesses required to stay closed by law.
Astoria has reopened as a pub with Covid-19 measures in place, including table seating for groups of up to six, and bookings for arrivals before 10pm.
The club’s website says that entry is on a ‘first-come first-served basis’ after this.
The venue is open on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
A decision will be made by Portsmouth City Council’s licensing committee.