Harrogate traders ready to be free of 'Covid shackles' despite Prime Minister's threat of roadmap delay
With just a few days until the Government takes the decision on whether to delay its own roadmap, Harrogate’s hospitality sector has issued the simple warning that even a two-week delay may be two weeks too long.
The recent sunny weather may have seen footfall in Harrogate town centre rising to levels unprecedented since the pandemic first struck but for many local traders a good summer remains vital to economic recovery - and their own survival.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak may be hinting that he could accept a four-week delay to ending Covid restrictions in England as cases of the Delta variant rise but Harrogate Business Improvement District (BID) warns any delay will come with an economic price.
Harrogate BID Manager Matthew Chapman said: “We understand protecting public health is important, but for a number of businesses, a two-week delay could be two weeks too long, and the difference between reopening and never reopening.
“The Government told us June 21 was the date the country would free itself from its Covid shackles, but now we are hearing this could be pushed back by another two weeks.
“If the Government is to decide this, then businesses need to know sooner, rather than later, so they can make their plans and ensure they’re fully prepared.”
The BID boss’s comments reflect fears also expressed this week from the British Chambers of Commerce that optimistic predictions of an economic bounce back this year are based on the Government’s roadmap going ahead.
Hannah Essex, Co-Executive Director the British Chambers of Commerce, added: “The UK economy, and the business communities that drive it, are showing their propensity to bounce back from a crisis. But these predictions rely upon the Government hitting its target date for the full reopening of the economy. If there are bumps in the road, the Government must be prepared to extend existing support until all sectors are able to fully trade again.”
Despite heartening scenes of crowds eating and drinking in Harrogate, especially over the last week, concern lingers on in the pub trade, in particular. With an announcement on a potential delay coming on Monday, figures released this week by the Office for National Statistics showed less than a quarter of pubs in England are confident of surviving the next three months.
David Dresser, owner of Fashion House Bistro on Swan Road in Harrogate, said the uncertainty was once again hurting bars, cafes and restaurants.
Mr Dresser said: “Once again, the hospitality and events industries are plunged into a world of uncertainty. June 21 was a date we were all working to. We have been making arrangements to stage a number of events, but these are now on hold until the Government tells us if it’s sticking to its ‘roadmap’ or not.
“We have now reached the point where a significant number of the population has been vaccinated.
“We need to accept Covid is here to stay, and not shut down every time a new strain of the virus is found.”
Traders in the hospitality sector in Harrogate remain resilient but the affects of social distancing continue to hurt turnover and revenue, especially for bars where footfall is essential.
The industry as a whole has been crossing off the days to the moment the two-metre rule is consigned to history from the very second Prime Minister Boris Johnson first announced the roadmap on February 22.
They await Monday’s big decision with bated breath.
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