Industry bosses have rejected the prospect of using so-called vaccine passports to permit entry to pubs.
The move comes after Boris Johnson suggested on Wednesday that it “may be up to individual publicans” whether they require customers to have a “Covid vaccination certificate”.
Sarah Simmonds, who manages the Three Mariners in Oare, Kent, told HuffPost UK: “We’ve been through so much in our industry and we’ve put in so much diligence and safeguarding already, I think this is just one step too far.
“The whole point of hospitality is that we are a people industry. We’re a soft, loving industry and this is just negative from the moment someone walks in through the door. It’s not like asking for proof of ID. And if you do it for pubs, what are you going to do when you go to Tesco? What’s the difference?”
Johnson said he would say more about the possible use of coronavirus health certificates in early April, but admitted it may not be feasible to implement them until everyone has been offered a vaccine.
Simmonds also said having to ask people for proof they’d had the jab would be intimidating for staff.
Jonathan Neame, chief executive of Shepherd Neame pub group, agrees.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I’m very concerned about the pressure we put on our young people – 50% of people (working) in pubs are under 25 – you’re going to force them to make some very challenging judgments, because they’re not qualified or trained as door staff, as they might be in the nightclub sector.
“So those people might therefore be subject to intimidation, if people think they are being unfairly discriminated against, and then there’s the question about who’s going to enforce this – are police going to do random checks?
“I don’t think so, I don’t think that’s the society we want.”
He added: “This is a fraught with difficulty I think, and it is, in my view, a fairly poorly thought-out idea at this stage.”
Neame said he would not make having had a vaccination a mandatory condition for people to enter his pubs.
He added: “The whole essence of a pub is that they are diverse and inclusive environments, where everybody, and families in particular, are extremely welcome.
“I mean imagine a scene where a family is reconnecting for the first time after this crisis, where grandpa’s forgotten his vaccination certificate, mum is pregnant, and the kids are too young to have had it yet – who’s going to make the judgment on the door on that occasion?
“I also think there are some issues with discrimination.
“I think it’s absolutely fine to exclude people where there is a situation of bad behaviour or drunkenness, and that’s already enshrined in law, but if you’re going to exclude people for what they are, or what they have not done, that’s a wholly different issue which does touch on discrimination, civil liberties, and in this case data protection issues.”
Tory lockdown sceptic Steve Baker warned the move could create a “two-tier Britain”, while Labour frontbencher Ed Miliband said it would be wrong to leave the public health measure up to pub landlords.
Clive Watson, founder of City Pub Group, said mandatory vaccines would be “absolutely chaotic and discriminatory”.
He said: “If you can’t require all hauliers coming into the country to have vaccine passports it is mad to suggest someone might need one to go to the pub.
“It’s discriminatory and a lot of people, including myself, have had a vaccine but haven’t got a way to immediately prove it.
“The paperwork would be an absolute nightmare.”
Patrick Dardis, chief executive of 190-year-old pub chain and brewer Young’s, said the possibility of mandatory vaccines for pubs “is unworkable and the government should stay clear of it”.
So too did Nick Mackenzie, chief executive of Greene King
He said: “Floating proposals without consultation and full consideration of the implications is disappointing and has a huge impact on the people who work in pubs and just want to get back to serving customers.”
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the UKHospitality trade body, added: “It is simply unworkable, would cause conflict between staff and customers and almost certainty result in breaches of equality rules.”
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove is reviewing the possible use of coronavirus status certificates, which may also include recent negative test status.
A Whitehall source said that landlords may be able to scrap social distancing if they check Covid health certificates on entry, in a move that would allow them to operate at much higher capacity.
But, under the suggestion being considered, those who did not want to enforce the checks would be allowed to reopen but would have to ensure social distancing is upheld.
Miliband, Labour’s shadow business secretary, told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “If this was really a public health measure, you wouldn’t be saying: ‘Well, it is going to be a landlord discretion’ – you’d be saying: ‘This is the government’s view, this is what’s safe’.”
Announcing the review of the certificates in February, Johnson said there are “deep and complex” ethical issues surrounding requiring vaccinations for certain activities.
Former chief whip Mark Harper, who chairs the Covid Recovery Group (CRG) of Tory lockdown-sceptics, told Sky News there are “significant problems” with the need to “show papers to go to the pub”.
CRG deputy chairman Baker, a former minister, urged the government not to “fall into this ghastly trap”.
“Whether the state legislates for it, recommends it or simply allows it, the result will be the same: a two-tier Britain that prevents pregnant women from taking part in society, given that the government is telling them not to take the vaccine, or one where we turn back the clock and tolerate businesses turning away customers from communities which have shown an unfortunate hesitancy to take up the offer of a vaccine,” he said.