'It's like we're being victimised again' - Sunderland publicans have their say on vaccine passports for pints

‘It feels like our trade is being singled out’ – say Sunderland publicans in response to suggestions pub-goers may need to provide a vaccine certificate to get served.

Thursday, 25th March 2021, 4:05 pm
City publicans have their say on proposed vaccine passports

It is understood that the Government is currently reviewing the possibility of introducing a document which would provide proof that a person has either been vaccinated against the virus or has tested negative before they can buy a pint.

Scott Allsopp is part of the management team who took over The Mountain Daisy in Hylton Road late last year. They’re looking forward to reopening the doors at the landmark pub once more when restrictions are lifted, but Scott says the suggestion of vaccine certificates is another blow to an industry that’s been brought to its knees by the pandemic.

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Scott Allsopp at The Mountain Daisy

"To be honest, it feels like our trade is being singled out,” he said. “I see a lack of social distancing in shops and supermarkets and nothing is done and it also seems strange that non-essential shops can open without the same measures.

"I know people who cannot have the vaccine for health reasons and they are effectively being denied a social life after so long in lockdown.

“There seems to be a new hurdle put in the way of the licensed trade on almost a daily business in an industry that has suffered as much, if not more, than most.”

Lee Smith is general manager at Theatre Leisure which operates The Rabbit in High Street West, a popular city centre pub which will be opening after April 12 when refurbishment works are complete.

Work is ongoing at The Mountain Daisy ahead of its reopening.

"If most of the population is vaccinated I don’t know why they need the passports for pubs,” he said. “Bringing out some sort of passport feels like having an identity card in World War II. Vaccinations are not mandatory, so why do people need them?

"It puts pubs in a really difficult position trying to enforce such measures, it was difficult enough last year trying to establish if people were from one household.”

Michael Brogan runs one of the city’s centre’s longest-running pubs, Sinatra’s in Holmeside, and says pubs already go to great lengths to keep customers and staff safe during the pandemic.

After Boris Johnson suggested the passports may be up to individual publicans, Michael said: “It’s definitely not something I will be insisting on people doing. We have already been victimised as an industry.”

The Rabbit is undergoing improvement works.

He added: "When we reopened last year I had security staff on the doors day and night for my customers’ safety as well as for my staff and we will continue to do that if required. I still can’t get my head round how beer gardens can open on April 12 but we can’t until May 17 when we are well ventilated. If you do the safety measures properly, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to open.”

Andrew Golding is operations director at a number of city centre venues including The Point, Ttonic and Chaplins and says he is also wary of the ethics behind such a passport.

“Although I am desperate for our businesses to return to a pre-pandemic normality, I am still unsure where I sit in regards to the idea of Covid vaccine certificates and I have concerns surrounding freedom of movement and choice,” he said.

Andrew, who has a long career in the hospitality sector, added: “Is it discriminatory to permit one person to drink in our venues over another due to the fact they have received a vaccine certificate? Will it be the pub industry once again being held responsible to track and trace only? Will it be applied in supermarkets and other industries? Will we eventually need a certificate to walk the streets?

Pubs like The Rabbit already have a number of safety measures in place

"What are the consequences and penalties if we don’t comply? My concern is alienating customers for no real gain if it isn’t a national requirement across all industries. We have already seen that the government have put unnecessary restrictions on the pub industry to no real benefit to the overall cause.”

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Sinatra's in Holmeside
Andrew Golding is operations director at a number of city centre venues