Buttermarket boss has reservations over Covid testing before night on the town

Revellers will be longing for the return of the buzz of pre-drinks at their pals’ as they get their glad rags on, ready for a big night out at their favourite nightclub.

The Buttermarket
The Buttermarket

But as well as factoring in the taxi fare, which haunts they plan on hitting and a kebab at the end of the night, they might also have to prepare for a Covid-19 test.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said this week that “rapid” lateral flow tests could be used by “those parts of the economy we couldn’t get open last year”, meaning nightclub, theatres and other entertainment venues.

“That, in combination with vaccination, will probably be the route forward,” he told a Downing Street news conference.

But he insisted it was still early days and that there are lots of discussions still to be had.

It may offer a glimmer of hope for the trade, which has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, but it’s difficult to envisage in practice.

Shrewsbury nightlife boss Martin Monahan, who owns The Buttermarket, expressed concerns over the suggestion, but believes a co-ordinated single-testing location could be the answer – rather than forcing each venue to have their own testing in operation.

“We’re working with all the different bodies to bring about us being able to open up again and making sure it is safe to do so. I have reservations about how it would work in practice. I think someone like the Shrewsbury Bid would need to co-ordinate a flow testing area.

“You would need to wait for 30 minutes after your test. It would be a passport for the night that says they are Covid-free.”

He added: “If there was some sort of testing area in town that could be sorted out, I think that would be the best way of doing it. I don’t think it’s feasible to have testing at every venue.

“If everyone has been vaccinated by the end of August, that would probably be a more workable solution. Although nightclubs are frequented more by young people, and we don’t know what the vaccine uptake will be like (among them) yet.”

In terms of planning for the immediate future, it remains difficult for the industry. Martin believes a proper return for nightclub is unlikely until autumn, but hopes to be able to offer something for customers.

Martin Monahan, owner of The Buttermarket

“I’ve given up second guessing,” he said. “I’m not even thinking about what the Prime Minister is going to say on Monday.

“You could plan for so many different scenarios, but the goalposts have been moved so many times during this pandemic.

“I’ve given up trying to think about the different types of scenarios because it changes from week to week.

“We’ll wait for what he says then we’ll take it from there. I don’t think bars and restaurants will be up and running until May, then nightclubs will be some time further in the future.”

The night time economy lamented the 10pm curfew that was brought in under previous measures, both for the damage it did to trade and the way it resulted in more people pouring out and gathering in the street at the same time. Martin is hopeful it will not return.

“We will do what we can to open in a way that is safe to do so. That might be doing pub nights, which is probably more likely.

"With the vast space at the Buttermarket, we were able to do social distancing extremely well. It was definitely worth our while until the ill-considered 10pm curfew was brought in. If they bring that back in, which I don’t think they will, it wouldn’t be feasible for us to open.

“I accept alcohol and social distancing has its issues, but we were coping with the restrictions. Later opening was brought in to stop everyone leaving at the same time and everyone needing taxis at the same time. We need to give people time to disperse gradually.”

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