Golden opportunity to boost Harrogate's £200m hospitality sector as 'Super Saturday' looms
This weekend’s critical reopening of Harrogate’s hospitality sector has been hailed as a golden opportunity to revive an industry worth nearly £200 million a year to the town’s economy.
But the excitement felt by businesses and customers at the end of lockdown for Harrogate’s bars, cafes and restaurants has been tempered by a warning - we can’t afford to mess this up.
Harrogate MP Andrew Jones said delight at the return of more normality should be balanced by the need for Harrogate not to “turn into another Leicester.”
Mr Jones said: “We are all excited by the opportunities Super Saturday presents; it is important that those opportunities are not squandered.
“Following the rules is crucial. We should not risk a second lockdown like Leicester. Were that to happen many businesses that are hanging on now would not survive.
“The public have a critical role here in ensuring that livelihoods are saved by how they act at this important moment for Harrogate’s future.”
The Harrogate and Knaresborough MP’s warning follows occasional outbreaks of minor unrest in Harrogate on the Stray and along West Park as the shackles of social distancing started to test residents and businesses alike.
The run-up to ‘Super Saturday’ has seen Harrogate’s indepedent traders scurrying to ensure the Government’s guidelines for reopening safely are met.
Harrogate BID Acting Chair, Sara Ferguson said she was confident both businesses and the public would rise to the challenge of enjoying themselves while acting responsibly. But if Harrogate’s food and drink industry were to be forced to close again, she added, it would be an “absolute disaster”.
She said: “I think the public will react positively to the new situation but I ask anyone who comes and supports the town’s pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes to respect the efforts these businesses have undertaken to ensure the safety of customers and staff.
“The last thing we want is for this sector to be closed again. It would be an absolute disaster for all concerned.”
Simon Cotton, managing director of HRH Group which manages six hotels across Harrogate and York says his staff in Harrogate’s popular Fat Badger pub cannot wait to serve their first customer the first perfectly chilled, hand-pulled pint - if they’ve booked in advance!
Writing in the first of a regular series of columns for the Harrogate Advertiser, he says he’s confident the feel-good factor will return to the town centre and the hospitality sector upon which much of Harrogate’s prosperity depends.
Mr Cotton said: “Harrogate’s leading restauranteurs, cafe owners, hoteliers and publicans who have exactly the same mix of nerves and excitement as I do. They all want to do it right; make their customers smile, laugh, relax and forget their troubles; but all the time keeping everyone safe.”
Mr Cotton urged the public to enjoy themselves in a responsible manner.
He said: “If you are venturing out into Harrogate this weekend for your first post lockdown pint or celebratory meal, enjoy the moment. But choose somewhere you know and trust to do the right thing, be ready with your phones to scan a QR code for a menu rather than hold one, expect that there may be a wait for your next pint and that you’ll probably need a table before ordering; and that that table will most certainly be disinfected within an inch of its life before you can sit down, but, remember, it will be worth it.”
Customers are being warned they should book in advance if they want to eat and drink this weekend, though it is a mixed picture as different traders react in their own ways to a list of precautions laid out by the Government.