Major Harrogate employer urges businesses to stay strong and says they will "come out fighting"

One of Harrogate’s major employers has reassured businesses “the show must go on” as we enter a full UK lockdown to stop the spread of coronavirus.

It comes after many businesses across the district had to close their doors following Boris Johnson’s announcement on Monday that people must only go outside to buy essentials like food or once a day for exercise.

While lots of retailers, including Simon Cotton’s Fat Badger, initially employed new measures to ensure they could continue trading, with takeaway and delivery options, the stricter rules have meant this is is no longer possible for many.

Simon Cotton has said the people of Harrogate are strong enough to fight through the coronavirus lockdown.

But Mr Cotton, Managing Director at HRH Group, has said the quicker people follow the rules, the sooner things should be back to normal.

He told the Harrogate Advertiser: “What is happening right now in the UK is terribly sad but it cannot be helped. We have to get on and do it.

“It is devastating, especially for those of us in the hospitality industry, but it is completely and utterly necessary. But the show must go on, and it will - today’s show has just been postponed.”

And while the new measures mean difficult and uncertain times, he has welcomed moves to give financial reassurance to town’s hospitality workers, including Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s plan to cover 80% of staff wages.

“The most important part of this from our point of view was the announcement that the Government will pay up to 80% of staff wages for employees who are unable to work during this time.

“So many of our employees are working on zero hours contracts and this provides peace of mind for a good many people across Harrogate who are working within our industry and would have been worried sick about their futures and how they were going to pay their bills.”

Like many other businesses across the district, Mr Cotton’s teams had been concentrating on how they could diversify their operations, including the offer of takeaway delivery and collection services at both Scran Restaurant and the Fat Badger.

Other Harrogate restaurants and cafes such as Mama Doreen’s, the Orchid, the Harrogate Tea Rooms and William and Victoria had been doing the same, but have taken the decision to stop following the lockdown as stricter regulations have come into play.

Independent restaurant Starling said it had taken the decision to cease operations, including its takeaway service, and put all its team into ‘furlough’, so staff could face the security of having 80% of their wages paid.

It said: “We believe this is the best option to protect the business and the team so we can all be here when we get out the other side to get back to serving you lovely Harrogate people.”

And while the Fat Badger is still offering delivery services, Mr Cotton says the decision has been made to stop the takeaway option from Scran and minimise risk by only operating from the one town centre site.

They have been preparing for the last couple of weeks bringing in takeaway boxes and sorting out additional drivers so that they can maintain some semblance of service to the people of Harrogate during the difficult times.

He is now urging businesses to keep their spirits high, weather the storm and follow the restrictions until things can go back to normal.

He added: “This may seem unnatural for many of us, especially as in business you usually have to smile and keep going - not close down - but eventually this will end and we will come out fighting.

“There are some tough times ahead but the people of Harrogate are strong.”