Harrogate enjoys busiest day in months as lockdown restrictions eased
The restart for cafe and bar culture today is fuelling the strongest footfall in retail in Harrogate town centre since before lockdown.
The sight of big crowds is music to the ears to a town centre awaiting the return of the good times after a worryingly fallow 2020 so far.
As bars, cafes and restaurants opened up for the first time since March 23 when they were closed by Government order, people took their seats outdoors for a coffee or a beer and a real buzz was felt in town for the first time since before the industry was closed as part of the battle against Covid-19.
Also seeming to do reasonable business for the first time in months were cafes with indoor seating such as Caffe Nero, LDMC and Marconi where customers had booked in advance.
The heart of Harrogate town centre at Cambridge Street, Oxford Street and James Street saw more people than at any time since the pandemic took hold.
Many shoppers were brandishing carrier bags from M&S clothes section, perhaps, a sign of planning for summer holidays now that airlines are restarting flights to European locations.
Among the shoppers spotted in the food hall at M&S in the town centre was TV presenter Stephen McGovern.
There was even a small queue of shoppers outside Primark on Cambridge Street.
But the larger crowds does not mean the retail sector is put of the woods yet.
Stores reported decent business rather than an actual return to anything like boom times and several shops are still to open after the rules were relaxed more than two weeks ago.
As well as some shops closing temporarily, others like Hotter shoe shop and Monsoon ladies clothing have closed permanently adding to the growing pre-virus list of empty retail units in Harrogate town centre.
The manager at HMV in Victoria Shopping Centre said things were going in the right direction but there was some distance to go for the sector to make a full recovery.
The problem still, the manager told the Harrogate Advertiser, was shoppers regaining the confidence to come to the shops again which had not fully materialised yet despite some encouraging signs today.
Tim Bosworth, the owner of London-inspired Hoxton North cafe, said he was hoping this was the start of a return to normality, though he did worry about the behaviour of a minority of people in the days ahead.
But he also hoped the reopening of the food and drink sector would see a new kind of normal based on people "behaving better towards each other with the emphasis on helping each other."
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