Covid UK: Nightclubs plan to open as soon as Freedom Day starts on Monday


Nightclubs are set to throw so-called ‘freedom raves’ at the stroke of midnight on Monday, with thousands of eager revellers across England expected to pile into discos for the first time since March last year without being required to provide Covid passports or negative test results.

Venues including Fabric, E1, Ministry of Sound and Egg nightclubs in London, Pryzm in Bristol, Powerhouse Night Club in Newcastle and Moon Acre, in Dorset are reportedly planning on throwing big parties the very second that most legal restrictions on social contact are removed.

Clubs are getting ready for so-called ‘Freedom Day’ next week, with staff in venues across England using fogger machines, which sprays an anti-viral disinfectant vapour, and vaccum cleaners to ensure the dancefloors are in pristine condition in time for the New Year’s Eve-style countdown at 11.59pm on Sunday.

One regular at Newcastle’s Powerhouse Night Club said: ‘I am so excited for Powerhouse to open, I can’t wait. It’s been so long. I am really looking forward to getting back on that dance floor and throwing some shapes.’  

Health Secretary Sajid Javid told the Commons on Monday that venues will be encouraged to use the NHS Covid Pass to ask punters for proof they are double-jabbed or have tested negative for coronavirus, but that it would be ‘non-compulsory’, as England enters its ‘new phase of continued caution’.

But in guidance published this week, the Government has threatened to compel clubs which do not force customers to provide proof of vaccination or a negative test result to do so by law – sparking a furious backlash from venues whose trade has been devastated by the cycle of lockdowns. 

Guidance also says that face masks should be worn, physical distancing ought to be maintained, and that venues should provide good ventilation to reduce the spread of coronavirus. 

The Government is also advising clubs to take steps to keep levels of carbon dioxide below 1,500ppm by using air conditioning or wedging doors open. Venues in which there is dancing, singing and continuous talking are advised to keep levels below 800ppm. However, CO2 monitors which provide this level of detail usually cost more than £250 and venues with multiple areas of poor ventilation may need several.  

Peter Marks, chief executive of REKOM UK, which owns Pryzm, Bar&Beyond, Eden and Fiction, said his clubs would trample over the guidance. He said he was ‘thrilled’ to be able to reopen ‘at full capacity and without any requirement for a negative Covid test, something we believe would create a barrier to both customer enjoyment and getting the industry back on its feet’.

It comes as a flash poll of more than 250 night-time economy businesses found that 82.7 per cent will not be asking customers to provide Covid passports or negative test results to gain entry into their venues from Monday.

When asked to explain why they did not want to ask customers for Covid status information, businesses cited the financial cost of implementing an effective system of checking without active Government support. They also warned of the potential for confrontation between staff and disgruntled consumers, and the fact that much of the trade in the night-time economy relies on spontaneity. 

Clubs also cited the unreliability of lateral flow tests, the fact businesses were given just one week’s notice by the Government, and high levels of vaccine scepticism among 18-30-year-olds, most of whom have still not received both doses.    

Michael Kill, CEO of the Night Time Industries Association, said: ‘We are hugely concerned that the Government has caused yet more confusion by suggesting that ‘Covid passports’ are not mandatory while, at the same time, details reveal clearly that this could well be the case in future.’

As the backlash to the Government’s Covid guidance intensifies, it emerged: 

  • People are cancelling their planned trips to the Balearic Islands after they were struck off the green list while the cost of flights back from Ibiza, Majorca and Menorca soared nine-fold;
  • Chancellor Rishi Sunak was last night urged by 77 MPs and peers to extend the furlough scheme for travel sector workers or face a jobs bloodbath this autumn;
  • Official figures show cases rose by a third in a week to 43,302 yesterday while 49 deaths were recorded; 
  • A report commissioned by Sir Patrick Vallance warns up to 60,000 people in England could die from flu this winter because so few people have immunity due to lockdowns; 
  • The NHS Covid contact-tracing app ‘won’t be made less sensitive for weeks due to rising infection rates’;
  • First Minister Mark Drakeford said people arriving from England by train would be required to don a face covering as soon as they entered Wales;
  • The vast majority of nightclubs and cinemas will not require customers to provide Covid passports when they reopen from Monday, industry leaders said yesterday.

Cleaning operations in full swing at the Powerhouse Night Club in Newcastle, with foggers and vaccums on the dancefloor

Nightclubs are set to throw so-called 'freedom raves' at the stroke of midnight on Monday (stock image)

Nightclubs are set to throw so-called ‘freedom raves’ at the stroke of midnight on Monday (stock image)

The Egg nightclub in London is getting ready to reopen on Monday, the so-called Freedom Day, as legal curbs are lifted

The Egg nightclub in London is getting ready to reopen on Monday, the so-called Freedom Day, as legal curbs are lifted

Powerhouse Night Club in Newcastle

Pryzm in Bristol

Venues including Powerhouse Night Club (left) in Newcastle and Pryzm in Bristol (right) are preparing to reopen

Official figures show Covid cases rose by a third in a week to 43,302 yesterday while 49 deaths were recorded

Official figures show Covid cases rose by a third in a week to 43,302 yesterday while 49 deaths were recorded

No jab, no drink! Pub becomes first in Britain to BAN punters who can’t prove they’ve had at least one dose of vaccine 

Landlord Philip Cutter, 50, has been subjected to vile abuse since an anti-vax forum highlighted his new rule at The Gardeners Arms pub in Norwich, Norfolk

Landlord Philip Cutter, 50, has been subjected to vile abuse since an anti-vax forum highlighted his new rule at The Gardeners Arms pub in Norwich, Norfolk

A pub has become the first in Britain to ban punters who can’t prove they’ve had at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

Landlord Philip Cutter, 50, has been subjected to vile abuse since an anti-vax forum highlighted his new rule at The Gardeners Arms pub in Norwich, Norfolk.

He decided to bring in the policy after two of his bar staff tested positive for Covid, forcing him to shut for ten days.

In a trend mirroring the national picture, Covid cases are on the rise in Norwich, with 336 people reporting a positive test between July 8 and July 14.

This was an increase of some 89.8 per cent compared to the previous seven days, figures show.

Nationwide, positive tests rose by nearly a third in a week yesterday to 43,302, with infections now at their highest level since January 15.

And the number of people who died with the virus also increased by 48.5 per cent in a week yesterday to 49, up from 33 last Wednesday.

Mr Kill added: ‘Government Guidance released this week has given businesses less than a week to make what would be a major change to their operating model. This type of ambiguous communication is creating hesitation amongst customers and operators. At this rate, ‘freedom day’ will be a false dawn for a nightlife sector characterised by chaos.’

‘The Government should recognise explicitly that ‘Covid passports’ are just not viable for large swathes of the night time economy, as their own internal report into the matter concluded. 

‘My worry here is that they intend to hide behind this ‘guidance’ and blame individual businesses and consumers for not taking the steps to stay safe. In fact, this sector takes the safety of its staff and customers very seriously and wants to be able to reopen safely, but is once again at sea because of a lack of leadership from the Government.’  

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, pub owner Julie Spensley, whose son Stephen Spensley owns the TS One bar and Spensley’s Emporium nightclub, said it would take up to 10 times longer to admit revellers if they had to show Covid passports and called the advice ‘very unworkable for venues such as late bars and nightclubs’. 

Other nightclub operators accused the Government of making them bear all the responsibility. 

Tristan Moffat, operations director of the Piano Works, which has two London venues and will not be asking to see Covid passports, told the BBC the change of date for the lifting of restrictions had cost his firm £250,000 in lost profit and trading losses incurred.

He added that 90 per cent of their customers were aged 20 to 35, precisely those who had not had the chance to be fully vaccinated. 

He said: ‘It’s like we’ve been given a rope to hang ourselves with. If it all goes wrong, we’ll be closed down again and the buck will be passed back to the operators. It’s not fair – the Government should either mandate something or not mandate it. They’ve been writing cheques of hope that we can’t cash. Confidence is slipping away and we’re the ones to suffer.’ 

Government guidance for businesses ahead of so-called Freedom Day on Monday has been savaged as ‘confusing chaos’ over its wishy-washy recommendations and advice.

Much of the content of the new document is strikingly similar to the old lockdown legislation, except this time each part starts with the word ‘consider’. It has left business owners facing decisions on whether to impose Covid-secure measures it cannot enforce on staff or customers under law.

Most baffling is how the Prime Minister’s promises to lift nearly all lockdown restrictions are so different to advice issued by the government. Dr Roger Barker, policy director at the Institute of Directors, said: ‘Like everybody else, businesses across the country having been awaiting ”freedom day” with bated breath, but instead we have had a series of mixed messages and patchwork requirements from Government that have dampened that enthusiasm.

‘Return to work or continue to stay at home. Throw away your masks or continue to wear them. Today’s long-awaited guidance from Government has done little to dispel that confusion.

‘Business leaders are understandably confused as to the legal status that this guidance has and are concerned about vulnerability under health and safety legislation, as well as the validity of their insurance.’

Vanita Parti, founder Of Blink Brow Bar, branded the guidance ‘a mess’.

She told Radio 4: ‘It’s all very confusing because we weren’t allowed to open with the rest of retail last summer when lockdown eased and it made sense for us to do so because we follow the highest of hygiene protocol.

‘Now they’re saying actually they’re merging the rest of you with retail and nobody needs to wear masks so we’re scratching our heads a little bit but of course it makes absolute sense for us to wear masks, we are asking our therapists to continue to do so and we can only recommend that our customers do so.

‘It puts them (staff) at risk and close contact services are close contact and of course beauty industry is very hygienic anyway but this is where masks really make sense.

The Fabric nightclub in London is getting ready to reopen on Monday, the so-called Freedom Day, as legal curbs are lifted

The Fabric nightclub in London is getting ready to reopen on Monday, the so-called Freedom Day, as legal curbs are lifted

Cleaning operations in full swing at the Powerhouse Night Club in Newcastle, with foggers and vaccums on the dancefloor

Cleaning operations in full swing at the Powerhouse Night Club in Newcastle, with foggers and vaccums on the dancefloor

Venues are planning on throwing parties the second that most legal restrictions are removed (stock image)

Venues are planning on throwing parties the second that most legal restrictions are removed (stock image)

Mask ‘shambles’ escalates as police are ordered to KEEP wearing them on the beat – while Wales First Minister brands Boris Johnson’s optional rules an ‘outlier’ 

The National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) has written to all forces advising that existing infection control measures should continue, despite face coverings no longer being required by law

The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) has written to all forces advising that existing infection control measures should continue, despite face coverings no longer being required by law

England’s mask shambles descended further into farce today as police officers were told to keep wearing them after Monday’s end to lockdown.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) has written to all forces advising that existing infection control measures should continue, despite face coverings no longer being required by law.

It came after the Government’s own advice to businesses on reopening work premises from July 19 last night recommended bosses encourage the wearing of masks indoors.

The First Ministers of Scotland and Wales have also said they will keep laws requiring masks to be worn in most indoor settings after their loosen their own lockdowns next week.

And London mayor Sadiq Khan has already ruled that masks will be required on London transport.

Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford said today that Boris Johnson’s decision to make masks optional in England – and rely on the common sense of the public – was an ‘outlier’ and it would be better if England followed his and Nicola Sturgeon’s example.

But Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick today insisted that as the vaccine rollout continues it is right to allow individuals and businesses to make their own judgments about what precautions to take.

 

‘I think we will continue to wear masks as an industry because customers feel a lot more comfortable and so do our therapists but again I think it’s a bit woolly, no-one has really looked at it in detail, slightly forgotten and it’s easier just to lump us all together.’

Documents released online just days before the July 19 unlocking also suggest workplaces keep social distancing measures like plastic screens and back-to-back desks in a bid to placate nervous workers.

Businesses should consider keeping staff wearing masks indoors even after lockdown ends, according to new government Covid guidance released tonight.  

They appear to suggest firms introduce ‘fixed teams or partnering’ to reduce the threat from coronavirus spreading through their workforce, – which has echoes of Covid bubbles in place in this year’s full lockdown.

Table service in pubs and widespread working from home should also continue, the guidance suggests.

The guidance appears likely to set the scene for furious battles between employees and their staff in the days and weeks ahead about how often they can return to their primary workplace and how it should be set up.

It tells bosses: ‘You should discuss a return to the workplace with workers, and trade unions to make working arrangements that meet both business and individual needs. Employers and others must continue to follow statutory health and safety requirements, conduct a risk assessment, and take reasonable steps to manage risks in their workplace or setting.’

Unions and employers hit out at the guidance with a warning that it is a ‘recipe for chaos’. The guidance is for ‘offices, factories, plants, warehouses, labs and research facilities and similar indoor environments’.

On masks it notes their use will no longer be mandatory indoors in England. But it adds: Consider encouraging the use of face coverings by workers (for example through signage), particularly in indoor areas where they may come into contact with people they do not normally meet.

‘This is especially important in enclosed and crowded spaces. When deciding whether you will ask workers or customers to wear a face covering, you would need to consider the reasonable adjustments needed for staff and clients with disabilities.

‘You would also need to consider carefully how this fits with other obligations to workers and customers arising from the law on employment rights, health and safety and equality legislation.’

Pubs and restaurants are asked to consider maintaining table service, even though Monday was meant to herald the return of buying drinks at the bar. The guidance also calls for venues to consider the introduction of Covid passes, which would see people granted entry only if they have had both vaccine doses, or recently tested negative for the virus.

In addition, it states: ‘You can also encourage the use of outside space where practical, in particular for higher risk activity such as exercise or when people are singing or raising their voices.’

Hugh Osmond, founder of the restaurant group Various Eateries, added: ‘What was billed as Freedom Day is actually going to be Chaos Day. I can’t see how anyone is supposed to know what to do… it’s Wednesday and I can’t tell you what we’re going to do on Monday.’

A retail industry source added: ‘You can’t force people to wear a mask in a shop. You risk having staff being attacked for ruining someone else’s Freedom Day.’

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: ‘We all want the economy to unlock as soon as possible, but these new back-to-work safety guidelines are a recipe for chaos and rising infections.

‘They have been published without proper consultation with unions or employers, just two full working days before restrictions end on Monday. Instead of providing clear and consistent guidance on how to keep staff safe at work, the government is abandoning workers and employers.

‘As infection rates surge, every employer must by law carry out a thorough risk assessment and take action to keep their workers safe. But these inadequate guidelines will leave many employers with more questions than answers and worried about their liability if they get things wrong.’ 

Ms O’Grady said wearing face coverings should remain a legal requirement on public transport and in shops.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has urged the public to be ‘cautious’ when Covid lockdown restrictions are lifted. He said it would be up to businesses to decide whether they want customers to continue with precautions such as the wearing of face masks.

‘Although we are in an immeasurably better position thanks to the vaccine programme, we are still very much living with the virus and we are going to be for a long time, so we do need to exercise caution,’ Mr Jenrick told Sky News.

‘We are asking every member of the public to be cautious, to come to sensible judgments about, for example, the wearing of masks in close contact in indoor spaces and to businesses as well to consider whether they need to apply those restrictions.

‘In my experience, having talked to hundreds of businesses over the course of the last year, this is the sort of discretion they want reflecting the fact that businesses are in a very different situation and a one-size-fits-all approach backed by the force of the law isn’t sensible when we are moving into a period now where, in all likelihood, we are going to be living with the virus for a long time.’ 

Are YOU a nightclub manager? Will you make customers wear masks or present Covid passports and negative tests from Monday, July 19? Let us know by emailing: jack.wright@mailonline.co.uk. 

Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Aldi all want customers to keep wearing masks after July 19 ‘Freedom Day’ as six out of 10 shoppers stay they’ll continue to cover their faces 

A raft of supermarkets have announced they will encourage customers and shop workers to continue wearing masks in their supermarkets from July 19.

Tesco, Asda, Aldi and Waitrose have become the latest retailers to say they will encourage customers and shop workers to continue wearing masks in their supermarkets from July 19.

On Wednesday evening, fellow supermarket chain Sainsbury’s said it will encourage all customers to wear a face covering if they can after ‘freedom day’.

It comes after the Government published guidance for businesses which said it ‘expects and recommends’ masks to be worn by workers and customers in crowded, enclosed spaces as the work from home order ends.

Boris Johnson said businesses were ‘perfectly capable’ of understanding new guidance on face coverings and guidelines.

A raft of supermarkets have announced they will encourage customers and shop workers to continue wearing masks in their supermarkets from July 19 after Sainsbury's announced similar measures on Wednesday (pictured, stock image, Sainsbury's worker wearing a mask)

A raft of supermarkets have announced they will encourage customers and shop workers to continue wearing masks in their supermarkets from July 19 after Sainsbury’s announced similar measures on Wednesday (pictured, stock image, Sainsbury’s worker wearing a mask)

Customers wearing masks

Face covering sign

It comes after the Government published guidance for businesses which said it ‘expects and recommends’ masks to be worn by workers and customers in crowded, enclosed spaces

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