The announcement was made on the same day that England lifted its last remaining COVID-19 restrictions, bringing an end to capacity limits and social distancing measures inside music and entertainment venues.
That prompted scores of nightclubs across the country to open just after midnight local time Monday to welcome back their first customers in almost 17 months.
The news that those same businesses will soon be required to make so-called “COVID passports” a condition of entry for all customers drew condemnation from nightclub industry execs. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholl said the plans dealt a devastating “hammer blow” to the sector and “risks hitting these fragile businesses and derailing their recovery.”
Michael Kill, CEO of the U.K. Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), said that mandatory enforcement of COVID-19 vaccination passports for nightclubs placed them at a “competitive disadvantage with pubs and bars that aren’t subject to the same restrictions.”
According to research cited by the NTIA, 80% of nightclubs do not want to implement vaccination passports due to concerns over enforcing the certification and a reduction in spontaneous customers.
Earlier this month, the government gave hope to the sector when it indicated that COVID passports would not be compulsory for venue operators. At present, nightclubs are encouraged to ask clubbers to show proof of vaccination or a negative test result but are not legally required to do so. Nightclubs in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland remain closed.
Responding to Boris Johnson’s July 19 announcement, which took many in the sector by surprise, Kill slammed the change in policy as “yet another chaotic U-turn” and an “absolute shambles.”
U.K. live industry body LIVE said it needed to see more detail about the government’s plans and how it will implement them to assess “the full impact for the live music industry.”
Elsewhere in Europe, a recent rise in COVID-19 infections in the Netherlands led to the government closing its nightclubs on July 10, only two weeks after they reopened. The Dutch government said most infections had occurred “in nightlife settings and parties with high numbers of people” and that extra safety measures were needed this summer as a result.