Plea for Harrogate diners and drinkers to follow the rules and keep everyone safe as lockdown eases

For the general public, it’s the chance to finally relax with friends over a coffee or a drink or a meal for the first time since March.

Friday, 3rd July 2020, 12:52 pm
Updated Friday, 3rd July 2020, 1:51 pm

For the general public, it’s the chance to finally relax with friends over a coffee or a drink or a meal for the first time since March.

For the business world ‘Super Saturday’ in 48 hours time means a lot more.

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Drinkers and diners planning to go out in Harrogate this weekend have been urged to follow the social distancing regulations to ensure both staff and customers stay safe.

It’s not too much of an exaggeration to say it’s the first day in the battle for the survival of the town centre as we’ve known it.

Cafes and bars and restaurants may at times become the bedrock of the community but they are also businesses in their own right.

For the reopening of the food and drink and hospitality sector this Saturday is a golden opportunity for traders to recoup some of their losses from the months of lockdown.

Pubs, restaurants and cafes will reopen across the Harrogate district this weekend following Prime Minister Boris Johnson's call to ease lockdown restrictions.

Harrogate BID Acting Chair, Sara Ferguson, who is the co-owner of Marconi cafe and Sasso restaurant, said: “Harrogate’s hospitality industry is vital to the town’s economy and, like their colleagues in retail, need the public’s support now more than ever.

“One of the best things about Harrogate town centre is the wealth of businesses selling food and drink. Having our hospitality industry back open will draw people back into town, and being the owner of a town centre café and a restaurant, we are naturally hoping for a good day’s trading for us and our colleagues.”

But there is an element of risk at play as Harrogate prepares for ‘Super Saturday’ a risk which cuts two ways.

On the one hand businesses are praying the level of social distancing and protective measures required by Government doesn’t deter customers and prevent the levels of footfall needed to turn a profit.

On the other hand, there is also concern that Saturday’s reopening does not lead to the sort of scenes of public gathering and disorder witnessed in recent weeks.

Sara Ferguson said: “I don’t think it’s too early to reopen. But I would ask hat those who come and support the local pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes respect the efforts these businesses have undertaken to ensure the safety of customers and staff.

“The last thing we want is for this sector t be closed again, which would be an absolute disaster.”

Caution is still in the air.

Anyone tempted to assume COVID-19 has been effectively resolved may be in for a shock when they have to book a precise time to get a drink at the bar or face a waiter wearing a mask.

For every three or four traders preparing to open up this weekend, there is another one delaying their return by a few days or, sometimes, an entire week just to see how things go in what could be a tricky opening week.

Paul Rawlinson, director of Baltzersen coffee shop in Oxford Street in Harrogate said: “We’ve decided to aim for next Monday, July 6 to reopen the cafe but will be doing our usual takeout this weekend.

“When we reopen the cafe it will be reservation only and we’ll have an ordering system that guests can use from the table. “

It’s a dilemma understood even by business groups keen to encourage a return to more normality for the sake of the economy.

Sandra Doherty, chief executive of Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce, said: “I think that in any large group of people there will always be those who don’t behave as we would like them to. I hope the public will be sensible and realise that Covid-19 is not over, just that we are in a better position than we have been. Social distancing, hand washing and care around other people is still a very important factor in keeping us all safe.”

Harrogate Borough Council and North Yorkshire County Council have come together to make pavement space available for customers in the hope of a civilised start to the ‘new normal’.

That’s something we can all surely raise a glass to?