Harrogate independent bar owner says 'planned reopening' essential to survival of hospitality sector

Successful independent bar owner Robert Thompson, who runs seven bars in Harrogate, Knaresborough and Ripon, said a planned reopening of the hospitality sector is essential for its survival - and the sooner the better.

Friday, 19th February 2021, 4:28 pm
Updated Friday, 19th February 2021, 4:30 pm
Robert Thompson has won several awards for his approach to running SO! bars in Harrogate, Knaresborough and Ripon, the Devonshire Tap House in Harrogate, Tap On Tower Street in Harrogate, The Groves in Knaresborough and The Hart in Knaresborough.

Having had to mothball most of his bars for much of the last year, Mr Thompson fully supports a safe approach.

But Mr Thompson warned the industry could not continue like this without serious economic consequences.

And, he added, should a tier system of Covid restrictions be reintroduced by the Government as infection rates decline and vaccination figures rise, Harrogate's hospitality sector needed it to be no worse than tier 2.

Mr Thompson said: “If the Covid situation continues to improve at the current rate and nothing untoward happens I would like to see reopening happen as quickly as possible.

“Obviously, I want people in general and our customers to be safe, but the industry cannot continue like this and a planned reopening is essential for its survival.

“This year can be better than 2020 because I believe there will be a genuine bounce back from consumers wanting that social interaction again in bars and pubs.”

Mr Thompson has won several awards for his approach to running SO! bars in Harrogate, Knaresborough and Ripon, the Devonshire Tap House in Harrogate, Tap On Tower Street in Harrogate, The Groves in Knaresborough and The Hart in Knaresborough.

He has also recently been granted a licence for a new craft beer and coffee house on Starbeck High Street called The Waiting Room.

With an emphasis on craft beer and quality drinks, as well as food, his small local chain aims to always create a civilised atmosphere and a safe and friendly environment.

Like many others in the food and drink industry, he does not understand why his sector has been singled out for tougher restrictions despite all its efforts to enforce social distancing and safety measures.

Mr Thompson said: “The hospitality industry employs 10% of the UK’s workforce. Surely we deserve a little more respect?

“If restrictions are reintroduced after reopening, then it has to be under at least level 2 restrictions. Anymore than that and the industry will face debt and operational losses.”

Mr Thompson is hoping his bars will have a good summer with Government support.

He said: “If restrictions are still in place there has to be a plan as to when full restrictions can be lifted for businesses to plan financially. I can see the summer extending and, if big events like the Euro championships go ahead, it will create a buzz to attract people back.”

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