Harrogate looking at 'strong recovery' as new easing of lockdown begins
Three leading figures in Harrogate’s business world have spoken of their confidence that the town is set for a “very strong recovery” when the next loosening of lockdown rules kicks in.
With only days until stage three of the Government’s roadmap promises to take the country on the final step before a return to full normality, there are claims the feeling of pessimism felt by many businesses earlier this year is now being replaced with one of optimism.
The new manager of Harrogate Business Improvement District (BID) said measures such as bars, cafes and restaurants being allowed to serve customers indoors and the reopening of entertainment venues was a milestone moment.
BID manager Matthew Chapman said: “Monday will mark another important milestone for the town’s hospitality sector.
“The feeling of pessimism felt by many businesses earlier this year is now being replaced with one of optimism.
“Being able to once again serve customers indoors is an important and welcome move.
“The town’s hotels and entertainment venues will be welcoming back customers and staff previously furloughed will be returning to the workplace, all of which will help give Harrogate a much-needed economic lift.”
Harrogate Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Resources, Enterprise and Economic Development hailed next Monday’s further relaxation of Covid rules as a “potential new dawn”.
And Coun Graham Swift praised traders in Harrogate for battling through extremely hard times.
He said: “The government have continued to make great progress with the distribution of vaccines and large numbers of the population.
"Whilst Coronavirus has impacted everybody, many of our businesses in the district have adapted and responded to meet customer demand.
"Those who have been badly impacted will have mostly received significant grants from the government (or utilised furlough) and as of next week indoor hospitality can join in to provide great experiences and take the next step back to recovery and normality.
W"e are clearly approaching a potential new dawn, living with Covid, but managing through vaccines, good hygiene practice and safely respecting each other.
“Our businesses have been fantastic in managing through tough times, but everybody can see that there is strong pent-up demand and the town is well placed to ride what might be a very strong recovery in the coming months.
David Simister, Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce’s new chief executive, said: “Monday will be an important day for the town’s hospitality sector, and in particular hotels, guest houses and bed and breakfasts, who can once again welcome leisure guests back for the first time since last December.
“With the latest easing of restriction coming into effect this Monday, it really does feel like life is finally beginning to return to normal.”
But concern remains over the general playing field for businesses as they attempt to make up for 14 months of disruption to their revenues.
At a national level, the British Retail Consortium said this week that a pick-up in April as non-essential stores reopened should not be seen as evidence of full recovery and urged ministers to make good on their promises of reform to business rates.
Mr Simister acknowledged the problems while remaining upbeat. He said: “Unlike other towns and cities across the country, Harrogate is probably in a better position than most to make a post-pandemic recovery.
“The Government promised it would publish its rates review last March but this has now been pushed back in the autumn due to Covid.
“The sooner we know the outcome, the better, as it may give businesses the confidence they need to take a property and the number of empty units might start to decrease.”
Harrogate BIDs Matthew Chapman said there was no room for complacency despite the brightening picture.
“We have sadly seen a number of business close over the last year, and to ensure more don’t follow suit, we need to support the high street,” he said.
“The message the BID is constantly pushing is Harrogate is a fabulous town to shop, eat and drink, and from Monday it is once again a great destination to stay and to be entertained.”
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