'We can't afford another Leicester' in Harrogate says MP as bars and restaurants reopen

This weekend’s critical reopening of Harrogate’s hospitality sector has been hailed as a golden opportunity to revive an industry worth nearly £200 million a year to the town’s economy.

Friday, 3rd July 2020, 7:00 am

But the excitement felt by businesses and customers at the end of lockdown for Harrogate’s bars, cafes and restaurants on Saturday, July 4 has been tempered by a warning - we can’t afford to mess this up.

Harrogate MP Andrew Jones said delight at the return of more normality should be balanced by the need for Harrogate not to “turn into another Leicester.”

Mr Jones said: “We are all excited by the opportunities Super Saturday presents; it is important that those opportunities are not squandered.

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Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones said delight at the return of more normality should be balanced by the need for Harrogate not to turn into another Leicester.

“Following the rules is crucial. We should not risk a second lockdown like Leicester. Were that to happen many businesses that are hanging on now would not survive.

“The public have a critical role here in ensuring that livelihoods are saved by how they act at this important moment for Harrogate’s future.”

The Harrogate and Knaresborough MP’s warning follows occasional outbreaks of minor unrest in Harrogate on the Stray and along West Park as the shackles of social distancing started to test residents and businesses alike.

The run-up to ‘Super Saturday’ has seen Harrogate’s independent traders scurrying to ensure the Government’s guidelines for reopening safely are met.

Harrogate BID Acting Chair, Sara Ferguson said she was confident both businesses and the public would rise to the challenge of enjoying themselves while acting responsibly.

But if Harrogate’s food and drink industry were to be forced to close again, she added, it would be an “absolute disaster”.

Sara Ferguson said: “I think the public will react positively to the new situation but I ask anyone who comes and supports the town’s pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes to respect the efforts these businesses have undertaken to ensure the safety of customers and staff.

“The last thing we want is for this sector to be closed again. It would be an absolute disaster for all concerned.”

Customers are being warned they should book in advance if they want to eat and drink this weekend, though it is a mixed picture as different traders react in their own ways to a list of precautions laid out by the Government.

Judith Rogerson, Harrogate & Knaresborough Lib Dems’ parliamentary spokesperson welcomed the arrival of ‘Super Saturday’ but criticised the Government for what she said was its mixed messages.

She said: “The past four months have been an incredibly difficult time for us all so it’s good news that life can finally start to return to something normal.

“We’ve all missed being able to meet our friends and family in the wonderful cafes, pubs and restaurants that are such an important part of the economy in Harrogate district. But this mustn’t be done too quickly. I welcome the changes so long as those changes are backed by the science.

“It’s frustrating that the messaging from the Government over the last few weeks has been confusing and that has made things difficult for businesses preparing to re-open.

“It’s really important that we have clear guidance from the Government and support from the council.”

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