The Prime Minister’s suggestion that vaccine passport could be used by pubs in order that social distancing rules could be scrapped early has been met with derision from leading pub operators.
Among the issues raised have been that is would be discriminatory against young people who have not yet been offered the vaccine – and would cause particular problems for the many under 25s that work in pubs across the country, while logistically it would be a nightmare to police.
Clive Chesser, chief executive of Punch Pubs Co told MCA that he “cannot see any logical reason for this to be introduced” and described the idea as “entirely impractical and unworkable in many ways”.
“Now is the time to start focusing on reviving the economy and rebuilding confidence, not implementing further impractical measures,” he added.
This was a view echoed by many other pub operators. David McDowall, president and chief operating officer at BrewDog said that it was “not a solution that works for hospitality”. “It is so important that the ability to visit and enjoy our already highly regulated and controlled hospitality environments is not subject to a mandatory vaccine certificate,” he said.
McDowall added that the focus should be on safely reopening bars, pubs and restaurants for all, “and this is very much at odds with that”.
Other non-supporters include Patrick Dardis, chief executive, Young’s who described Boris Johnson’s suggestion as “ill-thought out and not workable”. “This would discriminate against youngsters, not just customers, but hospitality staff – the vaccine roll out is based on age so millions will not be vaccinated any time soon,” commented Dardis.
He added that there was no need for social distancing to be delayed past 21 June and said the government should instead be encouraging people to enjoy their summer holidays in the UK rather than abroad and therefore reducing the risk of a third wave.
Simon Longbottom, chief executive, Stonegate Pub Company, noted that there had been much speculation following the Prime Minister’s comments and with the subject of passports currently under consultation it was too early to suggest that it would be a reality. But if they did, Longbottom said the additional responsibility for policing whether a customer has had a vaccine is an unfair burden on licensees and their teams as well as creating an unnecessary point of conflict.
“Hospitality has put may safeguards in place, executed well by responsible operators. These safeguards combined with the Test and Trace system should provide a sound basis for ensuring staff and customers remain safe,” he added.
Social distancing should not be in place once the vaccination roll out has been completed – with or without a passport, believes James Baer, managing director, Amber Taverns. “Would a passport be required for travelling on public transport during the rush hour?” he asked.
He said that for the majority of customers a vaccine passport would be seen as a negative. “They will make their own minds up about an acceptable level of risk in terms of getting on with their lives if they are given honest and ‘unsung’ data,” he added.
Heydon Mizon, joint MD at McMullen’s said he is not going to read much into Johnson’s comments, likening them to those about scotch eggs being a ‘substantial meal’.
He said if the government does believe those without a vaccine pose a risk to society or the NHS then they should legislate for mandatory vaccination, not try and impose it via the back door.
“Are vaccine passports as a prerequisite to pub entry possible? Of course, when everyone has had the opportunity to be vaccinated. Are they practicable? Of course not,” he said. “To be effective, we would all need to flash our passport as we enter every building regardless of it being a pub or not – that’s nonsense.”
Clive Watson, chief executive, City Pub Company had a more positive reaction to the idea, commenting that while it may it may be “a good idea”, it would be difficult to police and would lead to queues outside pubs, as well as discriminating against people under the age of 45, “never mind the bar staff who are all young”. “It would be much better to have temperature checks for staff and customers […] and should enable restrictions to be relaxed,” he said.
Vaccine passport idea dismissed by pub operators
The Prime Minister’s suggestion that vaccine passport could be introduced by pubs so social distancing rules can be scrapped early has been met with derision from leading pub operators. Sector leaders said the plans would be discriminatory against young people, and particularly problematic for the under 25s that work in pubs, while logistically it would be a nightmare to police. Featuring comment from Punch, Young’s, BrewDog, Stonegate and more.