Nightclub vaccine passports ridiculed as 'a terrible idea'

After running several city nightclubs, Andy Gotts has finally got to open one of his own - Fluke, on

Andy Gotts, who owns Fluke and Envy nightclubs in Norwich - Credit: © ARCHANT NORFOLK PHOTOGRAPHIC

As vaccine passports become a potential prerequisite for the re-opening of festivals, stadiums and the late-night economy, Norwich's own nightclub community has ridiculed the idea as "unworkable" and "disastrous".

According to an eight-page government report, Covid status certification - or vaccine passports - could be used to show whether people have been vaccinated, recently tested or have "natural immunity".

While ministers have insisted they would never be necessary for essential shopping, public transport or GP visits, they could be useful for risk management at music festivals, sports matches and nightclubs.

No plans have been finalised and vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi admitted the idea raises "difficult ethical questions".

Nadhim Zahawi who has been appointed as a health minister responsible for the deployment of the coronavirus vaccine

Nadhim Zahawi said the vaccine passports posed "ethical questions" - Credit: PA

For Glen Sarabi, who previously ran the Mantra and Truth nightclubs on Prince of Wales Road, vaccine passports for the licensed economy would be absurd.

He said: "It's a terrible idea: it just can't be policed.

"I understand the logic behind it but the practicality of it simply isn't there.

"If you've got 300 people queuing outside, how are nightclubs supposed to check their vaccine status in a timely manner? It'll just require so much extra policing, and that's something the police definitely don't need."

Most Read

He continued: "There's also the question of whether those people are intoxicated. Does that compromise their "natural immunity"?

"Even if we had people wait for rapid testing results for half an hour, like they're proposing at festivals and stadiums, are we really supposed to expect them to wait while their test result is generated? It's just not workable."

Beyond the practicality issue, Mr Sarabi claimed that the passports were also discriminatory towards young people.

"I'm 42 and I haven't been invited for my vaccine yet, so I highly doubt healthy 18-25-year-olds will have theirs by June", he explained. "Are they then not allowed to re-enter nightclubs?

"That's our entire market, so without them there would be no point in opening."

Mantra in Prince of Wales Road. A man was arrested on suspicion of possessing an imitation firearm o

Mantra in Prince of Wales Road, formerly managed by Glen Sarabi - Credit: Archant

Mr Sarabi also pointed out that it made no sense to give the nighttime economy "yet another hurdle" by way of a vaccine passport, when places which were just as busy - such as Primark - were not facing the same obstacles.

"Both environments will be just as busy as each other. Why does one potentially need passports and the other doesn't?" 

For Andy Gotts, who runs the Fluke and Envy nightclubs and is chairman of Late Night Norwich, the difficulties posed by vaccine passports are so hypothetical they currently aren't worth worrying about.

"The government has said they will mainly be used for international travel and not domestic venue settings", he said.

"I don't think they will enforce them at nightclubs because if they did we certainly wouldn't be opening in June: it's as simple as that.

"Our market is 18-25-year-olds. If they can't get in we don't have a clientele to open for. It would be disastrous."

Keir Slater, who manages Mr Postles' Apothecary on Upper King Street in Norwich, said he was was "lucky" because his venue has a both a bar and nightclub function.

Mr Postles Apothecary offers bottomless prosecco as well as a mezze board Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Mr Postles Apothecary offered takeaway takeaway cocktails throughout the various lockdowns when it was unable to open and plans to do so again - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

"The age-range of our customers is from 18-retired, so while vaccine passports would definitely change the atmosphere it wouldn't leave us short of custom", he explained.

"Having said that I think they'd be particularly harsh on young people who haven't had their time, so to speak.

"Once they've had their vaccines I think it could work, say if you get smartphone-savvy young people who just queue up and use QR codes.

"Ultimately, I think most businesses will do whatever they have to do to get people back through their doors again."

Stefan Gurney, executive director of the Norwich Business Improvement District (BID), said it was not realistic to expect individual venues to enforce a "vaccine passport" clearance system.

Stefan Gurney, executive director of Norwich Business Improvement District (BID).

Stefan Gurney, executive director of Norwich Business Improvement District (BID), said the passports at this stage were merely "hypothetical" - Credit: Neil Didsbury

"It's all hypothetical at the moment because we've got no final details, but it just can't be implemented at that level and I don't imagine it will be."

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter