Let’s go out: What are the Covid rules for nightclubs after July 19 ‘Freedom Day’

·3-min read
Nightclubs in the UK have been shut since March last year (Charles Asselin/Unsplash)
Nightclubs in the UK have been shut since March last year (Charles Asselin/Unsplash)

Nightclubs have finally reopened their doors for the first time since March last year, as Covid restrictions were lifted on July 19.

The late-night venues have been particularly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, and have been left as the only type of cultural venues not allowed at any point since lockdown first began.

Here’s what to expect as we make our long-awaited return to the dancefloor.

What rules do nightclubs have to follow?

Both venues and clubbers had been anxiously awaiting the Government’s announcement on the lifting of restrictions to see whether additional measures might be applied to nightclubs after July 19.

As it stands, nightclubs will not be required by law to enforce social distancing, mask wearing or any obligatory use of Covid tests or vaccine passports for customers.

However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday evening that proof of full vaccination would be needed for admission to nightclubs and other venues with “large crowds” by the end of September.

Speaking at a Downing Street briefing, Mr Johnson said three million young adults remained unvaccinated, while chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance warned they had the potential to cause "super spreading events".

How has the industry reacted?

The news of reopening was welcomed by the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), which said that the decision to reopen nightclubs from July 19 was “the correct one”.

Michael Kill, CEO of the NTIA, said: “After 16 months of crippling restrictions, businesses in the night time economy are ready to play our part in the safe reopening of society. Today should mark the beginning of nightlife’s long journey to rebuild itself.”

However, a majority of London nightclub operators insisted they would ignore guidance to introduce “covid passport” checks.

Carlo Carello, co-founder and owner of Raffles nightclub in Chelsea, said they would not be making checks on the door as they are not mandatory.

He said: “We won’t be checking as it’s not a requirement for us. It’s all about trying to get back in the flow. Enough is enough, the last delay from June to July cost us tens of thousands of pounds because we were all geared up and then it was snatched away from us. Now we need to take every penny we can.

“The practicality of all those checks outside is prohibitive and I am not convinced they serve any useful purpose. We have lots of safety measures in place and we ID scan all our guests anyway, so we know who is in the building.”

What about after September?

But the PM is facing growing backlash over his plans to make coronavirus vaccination compulsory for nightclubs in the autumn.

NTIA chief executive Kill accused the Government of “an absolute shambles”.

“So, ‘freedom day’ for nightclubs lasted around 17 hours then,” he said. “80% of nightclubs have said they do not want to implement Covid passports, worrying about difficulties with enforcing the system and a reduction in spontaneous consumers, as well as being put at a competitive disadvantage with pubs and bars that aren’t subject to the same restrictions and yet provide similar environments.”

Meanwhile, Labour’s shadow health minister Justin Madders said: “How can it be safe to go to nightclubs now, with no protective measures, if in September it will require double jab status? It makes no sense.

“This proposal is more confusion and incompetence from the heart of Government at the expense of public health. They need to get a grip.”

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