OPINION: Freedom, football and footfall! - Simon Cotton, MD of the HRH Group
With ‘Freedom Day’ (as it’s commonly become known), just days away, it is, without question, a massive step forward for all in the hospitality business and allows us to breathe a sigh of relief that we are finally getting things back to some form of normality.
But as Boris has said, it’s not the end yet. So, whilst I for one am looking forward to walking up to a bar and being able to order a pint, there are factors we will have to consider carefully.
The more that there are no rules, the quicker the Covid case rates rise and whilst we’re not seeing the terrible consequences of that, we have to understand that the rule of self-isolation for those contracting Covid look set to remain in place. This means ongoing disruption to staffing levels at short notice and will impact customer service so we will have to rely on the public to be respectful of that.
Even this week, we have seen a popular Harrogate restaurant close temporarily due to having no staff due to self isolation rules. That said, I’m over the moon with the latest announcement but we will have to be careful along the way to ensure our ‘freedom’ from restrictions is the fun and enjoyable one we’ve all been so desperate to get back to. As I write this column, England are in the final preparations for Wednesday night’s game against Denmark and it’s just a shame that the current restrictions haven’t allowed for a big screen to be put up in the town centre somewhere as I really feel that would have added something to the excitement of the tournament and, importantly, to the mood within the town.
Working for a business with a name like HRH Group, you can imagine we’re very patriotic at the best of times, but having the England manager making Harrogate district his home and seeing him around town regularly means that when we hear those now famous words ‘football’s coming home‘, it really does feel a bit more special to me and the thought that if England have won by the time you’re reading this and then go on to win the final on Sunday night, football will be coming home and Gareth Southgate will be bringing it right here to Harrogate for us! So, in an attempt to show England our fullest of support, there’ll be no Danish bacon, no Danish pastries and no Lurpak butter on the menu this week!
My final thought this month comes from having been to London for a few days recently. I was really impressed with the way some streets presented themselves to make them stand out and attract footfall to the area.
Firstly, Carnaby Street, which whilst already famous, has hung great festoons across the street in loud and sparkling colours with union flags and lighting making the whole street more fun and attractive. We also visited Camden Town, a favourite hang-out of mine when in London for its great relaxed and mixed hospitality scene.
But something I’d not seen before was the way they’ve decorated the front of the shops on the main road. You’ll have to google it to really appreciate what I mean by this, but in simple terms, they’ve attached huge pieces of artwork to the walls above each shop, so a shoe shop has a gigantic trainer shoe sticking out from the building and a Chinese restaurant has a giant dragon climbing the wall. They’re all massively different and extremely creative art-wise. Have a look on my Twitter page to see a few examples. I’m not sure how ‘Harrogate’ it would be to do the same, but it really made me think something like that on Commercial Street or Beulah Street in Harrogate would bring something to the town centre and get people talking and visiting. Until next month, stay safe, support local and enjoy the upcoming freedoms, but remember to respect those hospitality people working hard to ensure you have a great time out.