As of July 19 2021 the UK has lifted all remaining restrictions on the hospitality industry related to the Covid pandemic. But there is a big “but”
Since April pubs and restaurants across the UK have gradually been reopening, first with outdoor areas only then, gradually, inside opening with seated table service and limited numbers. Finally, as restrictions have been lifted the need for seated service is no longer applicable and the British public can once again stand at the bar and enjoy a pint. Within the hospitality sector there is one area that is only just reopening for the first time – nightclubs. And this is where the big “but” comes in.
Boris Johnson, the UK prime minister, announced this week that from the end of September Covid Certification would be necessary to enter any crowded venue. This includes concerts, festivals and nightclubs. He said, “I don’t want to have to close nightclubs again as they have elsewhere, but it does mean nightclubs need to do the socially responsible thing and make use of the NHS Covid pass…” Proof of a negative test will no longer be valid and all clubbers will need to prove double vaccination.
The nightclub industry, as you might imagine, is distinctly unimpressed. They state that carrying out checks will be unduly burdensome, costly and discriminates against their clientele, who are younger and, as yet, have not received Covid vaccination. The government argues that by the end of September, when the rules will come into place, all over 18’s will have had the opportunity to be vaccinated.
Only two weeks ago both the prime minister and health secretary stated that “vaccine passports” would not be needed to enter hospitality venues. This was following a report that said the practicalities of enforcing such a rule would be difficult and costly for an industry that has suffered greatly during the pandemic. Then, a week ago the government said that it “reserved the right” to force venues to require certification “at a later date if necessary”
In France, nightclubs reopened on July 9th after 17 months of complete closure and are only allowed to permit entry to either fully vaccinated customers or those who can prove a negative test within the past 48 hours. In an extremely entrepreneurial move many clubs have set up testing stations outside with rapid results. However, rules are about to change across the whole hospitality sector.
President Macron announced on July 12th that covid passports (Pass Sanitaire) would be required for anyone wishing to visit hospitality venues including just taking à coffee on a bar terrace. Since the announcement the debate in parliament has been raging, with many modifications being put forward. At one point terraces and outdoor dining areas would be exempt from the need to prove vaccination or negative testing but during the night of sunday 25th july it appears that the final text has been agreed.
For customers to enter any building open to the general public, including museums, cinemas and government offices, they will need to show double vaccination or negative test within 48 hours or recovery from Covid. For bars, restaurants and other hospitality venues the same rule applies and will include terraces. The rules will also include staff that work in the industry.
What is becoming clear is that the hospitality industry is going to continue having a tough time and that, certainly across Europe, governments will introduce stringent measures to ensure that the public are as safe as can be whilst in big crowds. Unfortunately, I foresee a number of flashpoints arising with our customers who are becoming tired of Covid restrictions.