Harrogate Blues Bar's fears over Stray 'backlash'
The owner of Harrogate's Blues Bar in the town centre says an order to remove outdoor seating from the Stray may be part of a backlash after last year's UCI cycling championships.
Simon Colgan, who also runs The Empress on the Stray pub with his partner Sharon, had been granted permission from Harrogate Borough Council to provide outdoor seating for customers ever since lockdown eased in early July.
But, after the council ordered the removal of any tables on the grass on Montpellier Hill from yesterday, Monday, Mr Colgan said the Blues Bar may have been signalled out because of the furore over Stray damage which resulted from the town hosting the world cycling championships last September.
He said: "We feel there is more to this than we know as other places have been able to keep theirs.
"We think that the backlash from the damage done by the cycle race means they are scared of bad feedback if the grass is damaged at all, even though we explained that people do not want to sit in a muddy field and we were doing our best to limit any damage."
But Harrogate Borough Council said the Blues Bar would still be able to use the non-grass area in front of its premises and they had to preserve the Stray for the benefit of the entire community.
After allowing many bars in the Harrogate district to use outdoor space when lockdown was first eased to allow social distancing to take place in reduced capacity for the hospitality sector, there was no intention to stop bars in general using outdoor space in the Harrogate district.
A council spokesperson said: "“The Blues Bar is fortunate that it does have a pavement licence and can use the space in front of its premises. Something they are already doing.
“This means we can ensure the grassed area remains in excellent condition for all to enjoy.”
Having mounted a strong campaign with much public support against the council ruling, Simon and Sharon Colgan were relieved to win a reprieve from Harrogate council for The Empress pub.
Last week the council agreed to provide a temporary licence to continue the use of the outside space at The Empress with picnic benches and bistro tables on Stray grass.
Mr Colgan said: "The Empress has been given six weeks more use of the Stray but we had to fight to get that.
"As far as the Blues Bar goes we were told that because the weather was good over the weekend we could use the grass but the tables have to be removed by Monday, which we have done.
"Personally I think they are worried that people have enjoyed sitting on the grass so much that there would be a push for it to be a permanent thing."
Harrogate Borough Council has been keen throughout the Covid pandemic to show its support for the hospitality sector while keeping customers safe.
A council spokesman said: “The location of the Empress public house does not make a pavement licence a practical solution.
"We have worked hard to provide them with a temporary licence that allows them to use an area on the Stray and maintain social distancing, which is a positive outcome that the pub is happy with."
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