The Prime Minister told the Commons Liaison Committee that it may be left up to “individual publicans” as to whether they can ask punters for domestic vaccine passports to enter venues.
Ministers are currently reviewing the possibility of introducing a document providing proof that a person has either been vaccinated against the virus or tested negative - as part of the drive to return to normality.
Combining the two is understood to be one option being considered to avoid discriminating against those who decline the jab for health, or other, reasons.
Conservative MP William Wragg, chairman of the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, asked the Prime Minister if “Covid vaccine certification” could be required for pub-goers.
Mr Johnson replied: “I think that that’s the kind of thing – it may be up to individual publicans, it may be up to the landlord.”
Trade body UK Hospitality criticised the prospect of pubs and restaurants being subject to vaccine certificates as “simply unworkable” and said it could cause conflict between staff and customers.
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove has been tasked with leading a review into the possible use of coronavirus status certificates as part of the road map for releasing England’s lockdown.
Mr Johnson told MPs the “concept of vaccine certification should not be totally alien to us” as he referred to the requirement of doctors to be vaccinated against hepatitis B.
But Conservative MP and former minister Steve Baker warned it could create a “two-tier Britain” for those who are unable to take up the vaccine for medical reasons.
The deputy chairman of the Covid Recovery Group of Tory lockdown sceptics said: “The Prime Minister began to tread a dangerous path when he opened the door to domestic Covid certificates.
“First they said we’ll need them to watch the football, and today that it may be papers for the pub.
“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.
“We must not fall into this ghastly trap.”
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, said: “It’s crucial that visiting the pub and other parts of hospitality should not be subject to mandatory vaccination certification.
“It is simply unworkable, would cause conflict between staff and customers and almost certainty result in breaches of equality rules.
“Through the success of the vaccine rollout we need to throw off the shackles of coronavirus in line with the Government’s roadmap, not impose more checks on our ability to socialise and do business.”
A British Beer and Pub Association spokesperson said: “Our sector has already gone to extraordinary lengths to prepare for reopening and we do not believe a requirement for pubs to check whether someone has had the vaccine would be appropriate or necessary.
“We will continue to work closely with the Government in developing guidelines for a safe and sustainable reopening in April and May.”
The possibility of allowing the use of so-called vaccine passports to permit entry into pubs and other venues was outlined as part of the Prime Minister’s road map for lockdown easing, a Government minister has suggested.
Children’s minister Vicky Ford, when asked why Boris Johnson appeared to U-turn on vaccine passports during his appearance before the Liaison Committee on Wednesday, told Sky News: “When we set out the road map way back in February to show us the way out of this lockdown, one of the things we said was that there would be reviews of different situations and there was always in that road map a review of the certifications (of having received a vaccine) and use of testing.
“And that review – which looks at how you would use vaccines, how you would use testing to keep settings safe when we go to that widest reopening – that is due before the fourth stage of the lockdown, so it has always been very clear we would be looking at all the different measures in order to take that really widest step.”