Harrogate business fears over Boris Johnson's coronavirus 'lockdown'

Harrogate business leaders have spoken out about their fears for business and jobs as the coronavirus lockdown initiated by the Government starts to kick in.

Tuesday, 17th March 2020, 6:31 pm
Leading Harrogate business figures believe Prime Minister Boris Johnson's major tightening of restrictions to contain the spread of the virus may have dire economic consequences for the town.

Although last week's Budget offered some relief to small businesses , in particular, leading Harrogate figures believe Prime Minister Boris Johnson's major tightening of restrictions to contain the spread of the virus may have dire economic consequences for the town.

One prominent business leader said businesses would not survive without help, particularly those independents which Harrogate depended on.

Another said the inevitable cutbacks would hit the jobs of some of Harrogate's workforce.

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And yet another warned it may be the "final straw" for some independent traders.

Sandra Doherty, chief executive of Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce

Sandra Doherty said: "The situation in the town is really quite desperate.

"The knock-on effect stemming from a wet winter when nobody wanted to be out in the cold and rain was exacerbated by several weekends of storm warnings which has also kept people away.

"We are now faced with Covid-19 which will have a massive impact on the town.

"The whole hospitality industry - bars, restaurants, hotels, guesthouses places of entertainment are already suffering mass cancelations and few to no forward bookings.

"We should be looking forward to Spring weather and several Bank Holidays to bring in some much-needed trade.

"But now we are basically unable to trade.

"Our beloved town has looked like a ghost town of late and I fear even some sunshine won’t bring the crowds to look at our beautiful spring flowers.

"Sadly, there are many local businesses, hairdressers, dentists and others who have close personal contact with their customers are already reporting losses of business.

"Although the offer of no rates to pay for those of us who fit into that category and the £3k offer for those who don’t pay rates will help with one of the many bills we will still have despite not having an income.

"The reality is its just not enough to make any real difference. Those larger businesses don’t even have the offer of £3k which surely can’t be right?

"Many of us employers in the hospitality industry employ on minimum hours contracts or even a casual basis.

"Sadly, these will be the first cutbacks and will impact a large section of Harrogate’s workforce. "

The chair of Harrogate BID (Business Improvement District), Bob Kennedy

Mr Kennedy, who owns G23 and Porters menswear shops in Harrogate, said: "It's going to be tough for all retail, restaurants, pubs, bars and event organisers.

"I fear that it may well be the last straw for some independent businesses in the town.

"All we can do is follow the government's advice and hope for the best."

The president of of Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce, Steve Scarre

Steve Scarre said: "What a worrying situation; not only for businesses, but possibly more worrying for the staff who work for them, particularly those in the hospitality sector.

"Let me give you an example. I know of a pub that serves food that will now have to lay six people off.

"These people include chefs and bar staff. The manager lives on the premises, which is owned by a chain.

"They have said he can remain in the flat - for the time being, provided he pays the rent! The staff include single parents who live on a week-by-week basis with regard to income. They are really worried.

"They knew that this was on the horizon, but they need to feed their children and can’t afford to stockpile.

"I know that hoteliers are not receiving bookings, and cancellations are a common occurrence each day.

"Boris has just announced that restaurants, bars, hotels (including B&B’s), cinemas, and theatres should be avoided.

"This situation will not be short term, with the peak not expected for some time.

"Businesses will not survive without help and particularly those independents that Harrogate depends upon.

"This comes on the back of a difficult trading period over the past six months and longer for those businesses who haven’t got large reserve."

William Woods of pressure group Independent Harrogate

William Woods said: "Things were extremely difficult for retailers before the Coronavirus- this could well hasten the closure of many restaurants shops and bars.

"We would be furious if NYCC put car parking charges up. Now is the perfect time to have an element of free parking before Harrogate becomes a ghost town."