City nightlife under attack from Covid passports, claim club bosses

Richard Chisnell is the owner Sherbet Lemon cocktail bar on Prince of Wales Road.

Richard Chisnell is the owner Sherbet Lemon cocktail bar on Prince of Wales Road. - Credit: Jessica Coppins

Bar and club owners are warning that the new Covid passport rules could cause a domino effect that will kill off city nightlife.

New guidance announced last week asks venues to check clubbers' vaccine passports and test results before admitting them inside.

Richard Chisnell is the owner Sherbet Lemon cocktail bar on Prince of Wales Road.

Richard Chisnell is the owner Sherbet Lemon cocktail bar on Prince of Wales Road. - Credit: Jessica Coppins

But Richard Chisnell, owner of Sherbert Lemon and Fat Fox Pizza Den, says the uncertainty is driving people away in their droves.

Mr Chisnell, who has been running clubs in Prince of Wales Road for more than five years, said: "It's a hard hit on our sector compared to others.

"Lots of people are cancelling Christmas parties.

"It'll be a lot quieter over the next few weeks. It's normally our busiest time of year."

He continued: "It's the domino effect really - fewer people will come out so there'll be less of an atmosphere and people will want to leave early.

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"And it seems impossible to police. People aren't going to be searched and the passports can easily be faked. It'll put a lot of stress on front door staff.

"The police have enough to do without having to send officers into clubs to check how many jabs people have had."

He added that confusion is rife: "What are the rights of people to refuse? Can we demand they show us their pass? Do we get penalised if someone gets in without one?

"It's odd to try and predict, I'm not even sure about my pizza shop. Can people still congregate in kebab shops?"

Mr Postles Apothecary re-opens as lockdown restrictions are eased for pubs and restaurants. Picture:

Mr Postles Apothecary - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

Keir Slater, manager of Mr Postles' Apothecary, is less worried about the impact of the Covid passport, saying that though he has seen a drop of 75pc in footfall he has found enforcing the policy fairly straightforward. 

Mr Slater said: "It isn't any real hassle to be honest.

"It's frustrating but you can either get angry or you can crack on.

"Don't get me wrong though, it is annoying. We've had footfall drop from 1,000 to 250 overnight. December tends to be fully booked for us.

"We normally do lots of stuff with big businesses but they've all cancelled. And it's understandable -  bosses don't want everyone off at once because they caught Covid at the Christmas party.

"We're under 500 people capacity and we wouldn't call ourselves a club, but we're open past 1am and have music - so we need to follow the rules.

"We'll start checking Covid passports at the same time we start checking IDs, at about 8pm."

He added: "People are acting like it's some huge burden but it won't take a lot of time to do checks. I don't think it will make much of a difference.

"It's like the extra checks we've started doing to prevent spiking. People don't mind waiting in a queue, in fact they're happy to if it means people are safer. 

"Isn't that a reward that makes up for the lost time?"

He continued: "I understand why people are frustrated - especially if your business has struggled this year."

Cans 'N' Cocktails opens on Prince of Wales Road when Andre Smith will be mixing the cocktails

Cans 'N' Cocktails owner Andre Smith - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Andre Smith, owner of Cans 'N' Cocktails, has called the new rules "confusing".

He said: "It doesn't make a great deal of sense to me. Someone can come in at 7pm and not get checked while someone else can come in at 1am and get checked.

"The whole open past 1am thing is weird, like Covid is Cinderella and leaves before midnight.

"Can you not get Covid before 1am?"

He added: "We're already trusting members of the public to be honest so what's the difference?

"We've actually decided to close the dance floor so we can escape the scope of the guidelines. I like a loophole.

"I feel bad for bigger venues. How are spaces with 700 people in them gonna be checked for passes at 1am? 

"The government said they'd give us a week to prepare. I received the guidance on Wednesday and it came into practice yesterday morning. That's less than 24 hours.

"It seems like a good plan but in reality, I suspect it won't work.

"It's poorly thought out and hard to manage for venues."