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Kent's landlords criticise possibility of Covid vaccine passport for pubs

Landlords across Kent are doubting the feasibility of pub vaccine passports, following the fresh measure suggested by the Prime Minister.

Boris Johnson revealed last night it may be left up to publicans whether or not they will quiz drinkers on if they've had the Covid jab.

Landlords are struggling to see the feasibility of a vaccine passport scheme. Stock image
Landlords are struggling to see the feasibility of a vaccine passport scheme. Stock image

But after months of forced closures, would landlords willingly turn away paying customers?

Brian Whiting, director of WH Pubs in Tonbridge, told KentOnline it would not be happening in his premises: “Will WH Pubs be stopping anybody coming in who hasn’t had the vaccine or doesn’t have a passport? The answer is no.

“Obviously if I’m forced by law then it’s a different question isn’t it.”

The hospitality industry was arguably one of the most regulated when lockdown restrictions eased - pubs and restaurants across Kent installed partitions, reduced their covers and asked all customers to remain seated at their tables.

Mr Whiting said yet another restriction would be too much to ask when other businesses are able to operate with far fewer measures.

Mr Whiting also runs The Chaser Inn in Shipbourne. Pic: Google Street View
Mr Whiting also runs The Chaser Inn in Shipbourne. Pic: Google Street View

He said: “It’s impossible to actually do. Have we become the police?

“We do so much more as an industry than anyone else - we’ve to track and traced and all this, but every time I turn up at a supermarket I’m shocked to see no one is cleaning the trolley and there’s one hand sanitising station as you walk in.

“I’ve got 8 in every one of my pubs. We have one way systems too - what's happened to those?”

Despite the original stand off to the idea, ministers are currently reviewing the possibility of introducing a document providing proof that a person has either been vaccinated against the virus or tested negative as part of the drive to return to normality.

In reply to a question on "Covid vaccine certification", Mr Johnson said: “I think that that’s the kind of thing – it may be up to individual publicans, it may be up to the landlord.”

Philip Thorley runs Thorley Taverns
Philip Thorley runs Thorley Taverns

Mr Johnson told MPs the “concept of vaccine certification should not be totally alien to us” as he referred to the requirement of doctors to be vaccinated against hepatitis B.

Philip Thorley, operations director of Thorley Taverns, managed 18 pubs and restaurants in Thanet and one in Sandwich.

He said: "It's a difficult one to ask us to swallow yet another initiative which at the moment as we'd stand - with only maybe half the adult population being vaccinated - you'd be turning away half your trade.

"It's a complete and utter no go so far as we're concerned."

Mr Johnson has now suggested it may only be possible to introduce a vaccine passports scheme once all adults have been offered a jab.

The PM confirmed a vaccine passport would not be needed for pub gardens
The PM confirmed a vaccine passport would not be needed for pub gardens

He also confirmed it would not apply on April 12, when pubs are allowed to resume outdoor trade.

Chief executive of Faversham brewer Shepherd Neame Jonathan Neame, which is now one of the country's bigger pub operators, has also hit out at the idea.

Speaking to Radio 4 he said: “The whole essence of a pub is that they are diverse and inclusive environments, where everybody, and families in particular, are extremely welcome.

“I mean imagine a scene where a family is reconnecting for the first time after this crisis, where grandpa’s forgotten his vaccination certificate, mum is pregnant, and the kids are too young to have had it yet – who’s going to make the judgment on the door on that occasion?

“I also think there are some issues with discrimination.

Shepherd Neame chief executive Jonathan Neame (45500550)
Shepherd Neame chief executive Jonathan Neame (45500550)

“I think it’s absolutely fine to exclude people where there is a situation of bad behaviour or drunkenness, and that’s already enshrined in law, but if you’re going to exclude people for what they are, or what they have not done, that’s a wholly different issue which does touch on discrimination, civil liberties, and in this case data protection issues.”

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, said: “It’s 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.

“Through the success of the vaccine rollout we need to throw off the shackles of coronavirus in line with the Government’s roadmap, not impose more checks on our ability to socialise and do business.”

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove has been tasked with leading a review into the possible use of coronavirus status certificates as part of the road map for releasing England’s lockdown.

Read more: All the latest news from Kent

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