Harrogate’s bars ready to open as Boris's roadmap rules change

Harrogate’s hospitality sector is gearing up for the “glorious 12th” next Monday as pubs get ready to open for the first time in almost four months.

Thursday, 8th April 2021, 12:13 pm
Updated Thursday, 8th April 2021, 12:14 pm
Simon Midgley of Starling Independent Bar Cafe Kitchen in Harrogate with the new mural by artist Sam Porter in the bar's new outside dinning/drinking area which will be ready to open on April 12. (Picture Gerard Binks)

As businesses in the hospitality sector prepare to welcome customers and bring staff back from furlough, there is more at stake on Monday than simply the opportunity to have a pint down at the local.

Simon Cotton managing director of the HRH Group which owns the Yorkshire Hotel, the White Hart Hotel and the Fat Badger pub, said the latest easing of restrictions was a crucial moment for the town.

“The much anticipated re-opening of hospitality is something the vast majority of people have been craving for,” he said. “But, while this is a national reopening, it is going to mean so much more to the people of Harrogate as it is a key driver of our local economy and it supports so many jobs in our town and district.”

Dormant since Prime Minster Boris Johnson declared another lockdown on January 4, bars are pulling out all the stops to make up for lost time and lost business.

Dreaming up new ways of utilising their outdoors space in order to tempt customers back, while according to the new rules from next Monday.

Cold Bath Brewing Co, which is already fully booked for the opening day, has invested in a canopy to cover its outside terrace on Kings Road.

Starling Independent Bar Café Kitchen, famed for its craft beer and pizza, has invested in transforming its rear yard on Oxford Street into a cosy and unique outside space with six tables of four.

The North Bar on Cheltenham Parade, meanwhile, has struck up a partnership with a new pizza eaterie next door called Pizza Social so customers can order pizzas.

Its marketing manager Sarah Hardy said: “We’ll be open as a bottleshop indoors, with drinking outside.

“We’re doing walk-ins only to start off to keep things fair, which should mean that everyone can get a seat.

“We’re planning on putting an outdoor bar on the terrace on weekends when it’s sunny so it should hopefully feel a little bit like being on holiday.”

The grandest of them all, however, and also the most visible, promises to be at two of the businessses run by Mr Cotton - The Fat Badger, and the Pickled Sprout at the Yorkshire Hotel.

In the case of the Fat Badger, the owners have utilised the space on the top deck of the car park and turned this into a stunning beer garden, complete with 15 pods.

As for the Yorkshire Hotel, recent days have seen the building of a dry stone wall by husband and wife team Jason and Tracey Potter of Living Stone, the delivery of more than 350 plants, shrubs and trees from Johnson’s of Whixley, the arrival of 300 m2 of real turf and 120 tons of top soil and a pile huge rocks courtesy of HACS.

But the fact the new rules only allow the hospitality sector to serve customers in an outdoor setting is a cause of concern.

Despite the positive vibes and creative spirit of independent Harrogate businesses, for every bar which, like the The Disappearing Chin on Beulah Street, the Tap on Tower Street, Major Tom’s on The Ginnel, The Harrogate Tap or Blind Jacks and the Bear at Carriages in Knaresborough, has a beer garden and is planning to reopen, there is another which does not and isn’t.

Mr Cotton argues more should be done to support bars and eateries in Harrogate’s hospitality sector which are ‘landlocked’ and do not have the opportunity to serve customers in the open air.

“The reopening is proving somewhat unfair with those venues with little or no outdoor space inevitably questioning whether it is worth opening at all. I would call on those with the power, to help hospitality businesses in our town, all they can.”

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