Major Tom's vac pac pizza shaped approach to surviving the pandemic year shows true indie spirit of Harrogate
If any town centre business typifies the way Harrogate independents have met the challenges of this Covid year with a mix of flexibility and a calm determination to get through it, perhaps it's Major Tom's Social.
Tucked away on The Ginnel above Space Vintage, Retro and Design shop off Parliament Street, its level-headed co-owner Toby Smith has dealt with every new limitation in the ever-changing picture of the pandemic by being flexible or offering a new approach each time.
The town may be in its second full lockdown of the year but there has never been any sense of despondency (or annoyance about whether it's a 1m rule or a 2m rule for social distancing) at this café, beer bar and pizzeria which first opened its doors in 2014 - even during the tough days of the first lockdown.
In April, it cooked, donated and delivered more than 250 of its popular home-crafted pizzas to staff creating the new NHS Nightingale Hospital.
In May, as a long-time supporter of live music, it got involved with an online musical showcase of Harrogate talent called HG Lockdown Festival by running a live online beer tasting session.
By the end of the month as the Government started the process of easing the lockdown rules, Major Tom's was introducing a takeaway pizza and beer service with a makeshift counter at its front door.
Specialising in sourcing and selling craft beer and real ale, especially from local breweries in Yorkshire, Major Tom's has shown how it is possible to navigate a way through the challenges of Covid even if you are operating on tight margins like most bar businesses.
When the Government finally allowed bars to fully reopen on July 4, which meant changing the layout of the bar and the style of service to help with social distancing, Toby Smith admitted there was a lot to do to reopen in time in terms of admin, ergonomics and staff training.
"It will be tight," he said, "but we love a challenge."
After reopening and having, what its co-owner describes as, "a really good August with the Eat Out To Help out campaign and a lot of tourists through the doors," the rules started to tighten up again.
By this time Major Tom's was operating more as a restaurant than a craft beer bar with an online booking system, bar host and table and app service.
Then the 10pm curfew arrived, then full lockdown returned - or almost.
But Major Tom's is still trading.
Initially, the Government announced that the second lockdown would see a ban placed on businesses selling takeaway alcohol.
Now it says customers can order takeaway pints from their local pubs.
But customers will have to pre-order their drink online, or by phone or post, to then be collect directly from the pub or delivered to their door.
And they are not permitted to enter a pub or bar's premises.
So Toby Smith rolled up his sleeves and relaunched the bar again - this time running a pizza and drinks takeout service where customers pick a time slot and place an order via the craft beer bar's website.
And there's another innovation. For the first time Major Tom's is delivering its own pre-made vac packed pizzas to your door for people to cook at home at their own leisure.
Toby Smith summed it up simply: "It's just a matter of keep making changes to meet the new circumstances each time.
"We have been really happy with the way our customers have responded at all times this year."
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