Comedy club in Liverpool cancels pilot event after receiving online abuse

6 April 2021, 22:19 | Updated: 6 April 2021, 22:39

Liverpool's Hot Water Comedy Club blamed confusion from the government for its decision to cancel the event
Liverpool's Hot Water Comedy Club blamed confusion from the government for its decision to cancel the event. Picture: Google Street View
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

A comedy club in Liverpool has pulled out of a trial to test how venues can operate safely because "the government wasn't clear" whether it would involve Covid vaccine passports.

The Hot Water Comedy Club said it had faced an online "hate campaign" after reports suggested it was working with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to trial Covid-status certification, best known as vaccine passports.

Co-owner Binty Blair said he had tried reaching out to the department to clarify whether the documents would be trialled in the pilot event but received no clear answer.

He and his team have since decided to cancel the event, which would have had an audience of 300 people, that was scheduled for 16 April at the M&S Bank Arena Auditorium.

It would have been the first to be trialled for how venues can operate safely.

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"The reason for us backing out is the Government wasn't clear about the Covid passports," Mr Blair said.

"The problem is we don't know what we signed up for."

On Tuesday evening, the government confirmed there will be no requirement for participants in the initial pilot events to have received a vaccination in venues like a comedy club.

The DCMS announced last weekend that several trial events are being planned over the coming months to find ways for venues such as football grounds and nightclubs to reopen without being required to enforce social distancing measures.

It said Covid-status certification will also be trialled as part of the programme, while detailing a number of events on an initial list of pilots, including at the Hot Water Comedy Club.

Mr Blair said he had agreed to take part in the pilot in March but only learned of ministers' plans to trial Covid-19 vaccine passports two days ago.

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He said four acts have lost £300 each as a result of the cancelled event.

Speaking about the online abuse, he said: "Most of them have been mental. Some have accused us of being (given) backhanders.

"I'm not really fussed about the backlash from keyboard warriors but some have emailed us with genuine concerns."

He said the club has been "significantly damaged" after receiving more than 4,000 angry messages.

It comes after Liverpool City Council said on Sunday that events taking place in the city to trial how venues will operate safely will not involve vaccine passports.

The council said the Events Research Programme (ERP) will explore how different approaches to social distancing, ventilation and test-on-entry protocols, including the use of lateral flow tests, could be used ahead of Step 4 of the roadmap out of lockdown in June.

A government spokesperson said: "We strongly condemn the online abuse that Hot Water Comedy Club has received.

"Our initial pilot events will be based on proof of a negative test result and there will be no requirement for participants to have received a vaccination in venues like a comedy club.

"Our ambition is to help the British public get back to the mass events they enjoy safely - such as going to sport, live music and cultural events - in a way that ensures the risk of transmission is sufficiently low while maintaining commercial viability."