Birmingham LGBTQ nightclub offers closed premises as free NHS vaccination centre
As the UK’s coronavirus vaccination roll-out gets underway with the newly approved Oxford/Astra Zeneca vaccine suitable for standard refrigeration, a nightclub in Birmingham has offered their premises for use by NHS staff.
Management at the aptly-named Nightingale Club in the city, which has been closed since March last year, have offered the venue to NHS staff for free to use as a vaccination centre amid reports of a shortage of operational locations.
Taking a lead from pub chain BrewDog who similarly offered their currently closed venues for medical use in an announcement made on Thursday (December 31), Nightingale Club manager Lawrence Barton announced on social media earlier today that the temporarily closed hospitality venue was free for use for the delivery and distribution of vital vaccinations, and at no charge.
With the first vaccines rolling out from today and 697 centres already set up across England in hospitals, GP practices and community buildings; figures suggest a quarter of people in the country still live in a constituency with no vaccine centre.
In a post shared to Twitter, Barton wrote, “Following the amazing lead taken by @BrewDogJames we too would like to offer the @Nightingaleclub venue to assist with vaccination rollout for free.
“We are one of the biggest venues in #Birmingham with ample room for #NHS staff over three floors. Let us help.”
In the tweet, Barton made reference to BrewDog brewery and pub chain co-founder James Watt, who last week pledged his hospitality brand’s Scottish venues as centres for the highly-anticipated vaccination rollout.
Announcing BrewDog’s commitment to assist, Watt addressed the Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock and Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in a tweet, writing, “We would like to offer our closed @BrewDog venues to help with a quick roll out of the vaccine. For free.
“We have waiting areas, huge refrigerators, seperate [sic] rooms for vaccinatations [sic] and an ace team who can help organise. We want to help.”
The publicly posted message – which has been retweeted over 13,000 times and ‘liked’ by over 98,000 online users – unexpectedly received a response from Nicola Sturgeon, who replied, “Thank you. I’ll pass this on to our vaccination team.”
It is not known if the government or NHS will take up the offer made by national company BrewDog or the Nightingale Club in Birmingham, but both venues boast ample space and potentially suitable refrigeration units.
In similar developments, Boots pharmacy have set up three vaccination sites in Halifax, Huddersfield and Gloucester; while supermarket giant Tesco is offering logistical support to distribute the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab.
More than half a million doses of the vaccine are ready for use today, with tens of millions more to be delivered in the coming weeks and months once batches have been quality checked.
According to a government spokesperson, “More than 730 vaccination sites have already been established across the UK and hundreds more are opening this week to take the total to over 1,000, helping those who are most at risk from COVID-19 to access vaccines for free, regardless of where they live.”
The first Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccinations will be delivered at hospitals for the first few days, as is standard practice, before the bulk of supplies are sent to hundreds of GP-led services and care homes later in the week.
More than a million people in the UK have already been vaccinated with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and its roll out will continue at pace.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “I am delighted that today we are rolling out the Oxford vaccine – a testament to British science. This is a pivotal moment in our fight against this awful virus and I hope it provides renewed hope to everybody that the end of this pandemic is in sight.
“Through its vaccine delivery plan the NHS is doing everything it can to vaccinate those most at risk as quickly as possible and we will rapidly accelerate our vaccination programme.
“While the most vulnerable are immunised, I urge everybody to continue following the restrictions so we can keep cases down and protect our loved ones.”
COVID-19 deaths in the West Midlands
As of December 31, there has been COVID-19 deaths 7,872 recorded in the West Midlands, with 1,581 in Birmingham.
The UK total coronavirus death toll has passed 75,000 with Midlands deaths being the highest in England, according to government figures.
Birmingham and the Midlands recorded 54 new coronavirus deaths on January 4.
The Nightingale Club is housed in a three-storey building located in Kent Street in Birmingham’s Southside district, with all floors being offered for use should the NHS require it. The club has a capacity of 2,000 people, has several bars on each floor, numerous refrigeration units, restroom facilities and spacious main rooms normally used as open dance floors.
Usually open for weekly club nights between Thursday and Saturday, the LGBTQ+ venue has been closed since the first national lockdown in March 2019.
Let us help 🌈 pic.twitter.com/2HXxcYBFpS
— Nightingale Club (@Nightingaleclub) January 4, 2021
The nightclub is part of a larger network of LGBTQ+ venues in Birmingham’s ‘Gay Quarter’ co-directed by entrepreneur Lawrence Barton, but has struggled financially since the pandemic began. Like many hospitality venues across the country, a number of bars and clubs managed by Barton have had to close their doors.
In October, the Arts Council awarded more than £500,000 to Barton’s bar and nightclub network through its Culture Recovery Fund, with funds earmarked for “combined arts”, of which the Nightingale Club received £265,000 and the nearby Village Inn venue received £253,143.