Pubs and bars have called the introduction of Plan B Covid restrictions a “huge blow” for the sector, which was hoping to recoup its losses this Christmas.
“Make no mistake, this is a huge blow for our sector as it further undermines consumer confidence and is devastating for pubs based near offices and in town centres,” Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said.
Boris Johnson announced tougher Covid restrictions on Wednesday evening, including guidance to work from home where possible and wear masks in theatres and cinemas.
McClarkin added: “The festive period is crucial to the recovery of our sector, so these restrictions could not have come at a more important trading time. They threaten the viability of pubs who will lose vital revenue over the Christmas period and so the Government will need to look at providing support.
One saving grace for the pub sector is that Covid passports will not apply to the “vast majority” of venues, the trade body said.
“We still need clarifications and to see the detail on other aspects – including on facemasks,” McClarkin added.
The announcement comes in light of growing cases of the new Omicron variant, thought to be more transmissible than other strains of the virus.
From Friday, people will be instructed to work from home if they can and wearing a face mask will be mandatory in most public indoor settings including cinemas.
Covid certification will also be mandatory for entry into night clubs and for large events. However, proof of a negative lateral flow test will be eligible as well as proof of two jabs.
Michael Kill, CEO of the Night Time Industries Association, said the introduction of vaccine passports represented “devastating news” for the night time economy.
He added: “The mixed public health messages this week that have been coming out of the Government have arrived at the worst possible time – the pre-Christmas period is absolutely crucial for our sector. And now it is announced damaging vaccine passports are to be implemented. Far from ‘saving’ Christmas, the Prime Minister has given our sector the horrible present of more pain for businesses desperately trying to recoup losses from earlier in the pandemic.”
Businesses have also questioned the timing of this latest announcement, as it follows public outcry over reports that Downing Street civil servants hosted a Christmas party last year when bans on social gatherings were in place across the country.
Kill said: “Is this sound evidence-based public policy making or is this an attempt to move the news agenda on from a damaging story about the Downing St Christmas party? It feels that nightclubs and bars have been thrown under the bus by the Prime Minister for him to save his own skin.”
Peter Marks, chairman of the UK’s largest nightclub operator REKOM, said thousands of jobs were at risk across the sector. He said the vaccine passport policy should apply across other parts of society too.
“If the government sees the need for compulsory vaccine passports, then it should do so across the board. It is not only unjust to single out the late night sector but it will have no impact on transmission rates,” Marks said.
“There is no difference being in a busy shop, shopping centre, restaurant, pub or bar, which all attract far greater numbers of people week in week out compared to the numbers of people that go clubbing.