The UK pub and restaurant industries have rejected the idea of vaccine checks at the door after the government floated it as a possible option to help to reopen the hospitality sector.
The government is considering letting pubs relax social distancing rules if they check customers’ Covid status , and Boris Johnson said landlords should be allowed to set the terms of entry.
However, UKHospitality, which represents restaurants and bars, and the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), a lobby group, said on Thursday that the checks would be unworkable” and would not be appropriate or necessary. Some MPs have already criticised the idea.
Mitchells & Butlers, the owner of Browns, Nicholson’s and Harvester pubs, restaurants and bars, said it had concerns about the vaccine check plans.
“We’re keen to get our businesses back trading at close to pre-pandemic levels as quickly as possible,” a spokesperson said. “However, vaccine passports or Covid certifications would pose numerous practical issues for our industry. We don’t currently have plans for our guests to provide proof of vaccination before entering one of our businesses.”
Emma McClarkin, the BBPA’s chief executive, said: “Our sector has already gone to extraordinary lengths to prepare for reopening and we do not believe a requirement for pubs to check whether someone has had the vaccine would be appropriate or necessary.
“We will continue to work closely with the government in developing guidelines for a safe and sustainable reopening in April and May.”
Pubs and restaurants in England are set to reopen outdoor areas on 12 April, followed by a further easing of restrictions in May.
Kate Nicholls, UKHospitality’s chief executive, said: “It is crucial that visiting the pub and other parts of hospitality should not be subject to mandatory vaccination certification. It is simply unworkable, would cause conflict between staff and customers and almost certainty result in breaches of equality rules.”
She added that it could cause confusion, put owners in a difficult position in enforcing the rules, and mean that younger people were unable to visit pubs as the vaccination programme rolls out. Just over half of UK adults have received the first dose of a vaccine.
JD Wetherspoon, the UK’s largest pub chain, said the company had not yet made a decision on whether it would back pub-door vaccine checks.
Wetherspoon’s and Mitchells & Butlers are planning to collect contact tracing information and to ask customers to wear masks when using indoor facilities.
A review into social distancing measures is expected before 21 June, the date by which the government is considering removing all legal limits on mixing and allowing the reopening of all sectors. One option under consideration is allowing venues to ask for proof of a recent test or a vaccine in return for relaxing distancing requirements.
Allowing entry based on negative test results would also cover younger people who have not yet been vaccinated and the small proportion of people who have been advised not to take vaccines, as well as those who have declined to receive them against medical advice.
However, not all hospitality companies were opposed to the idea. Peter Marks, the chief executive of Deltic Group, a nightclub operator, told BBC radio that younger customers may be more open to vaccine checks.
“For us, our demographic would probably accept it,” he said. “It’s a young customer base for us. They already walk around with ID such as driving licence and passports to get into a lot of our venues. I don’t think they’d have a problem with it.”