Liverpool comedy club criticises government after Covid trial backlash

A comedy club has said it suffered “significant damage” to its reputation after being wrongly linked to the government’s proposal for coronavirus health certificates.

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Photograph: Carl Recine/Reuters

Paul Blair, a co-owner of the Liverpool-based Hot Water comedy club, said it faced a backlash after several newspapers reported it would be involved in vaccine passport trials after a “very unclear” government announcement.

His club was one of several venues due to take part in pilot events to test the safe return of audiences without social distancing. Attendees will require a negative coronavirus test but the trial is not linked to any proposed vaccine passport.

Blair said on Wednesday his club had withdrawn from the government pilot after being bombarded with angry messages about a Covid health certificate. He said being wrongly linked to the proposals had harmed his business.

“There was a lot of messages and refund requests. There’s a lot of damage, whether it’s short or long term it’s hard to gauge because we’re not open,” he said.

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The Hot Water club was due to be the first place in the UK to trial the safe return of fans as part of the trial on 16 April. Attendees would simply need to show proof of a negative test and a valid ticket for entry.


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In a statement on Tuesday night, the club said it agreed to be in a pilot in early March for venues to reopen safely but that there was no mention of any health certificates: “Vaccine passports were never at any time mentioned in any of the discussions we had prior to agreeing to put on the event.”

It said the confusion stemmed from a government press release which “bundled together” a number of issues, leading to headlines about a vaccine passport trial. The club said the government’s latest roadmap remained “very unclear and confusing” and it had still not been able to speak to any government official about the damage caused.

The club said: “Unfortunately damage had already been done. Over the next two days we were subject to a hate campaign from people opposing the vaccine passport across our Facebook channel, Twitter, Instagram, emails, text messages, negative reviews, refund requests and phone calls. We have over 4,000 separate examples of negative reaction which have significantly damaged our business and brand.”

Other events that are part of the trial include the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley on 18 April, followed by the World Snooker Championship at the Crucible theatre in Sheffield and the Carabao Cup final at Wembley on 25 April.

Other smaller venues in Liverpool are also taking part including Circus nightclub and Luna cinema. Liverpool council, which was chosen for the pilot in part following its trial of mass testing last year, has stressed that vaccine passports are not being tested.

• This article was launched to replace an earlier version from a news agency published on 6 April 2021. The earlier headline wrongly stated that the Hot Water comedy club was part of a “Covid-19 passport pilot”, and used quotes from the club’s co-owner Paul Blair – originally named as “Binty Blair” – that he said were misrepresentative.

© Photograph: Carl Recine/Reuters
A sign for a Covid test centre in Stanley Park, Liverpool. The comedy club was due to take part in pilot events where attendees would require a negative test result.

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