Harrogate beer sector's worries over roadmap and why it is vital Government sticks to lockdown schedule

Pubs may be at the heart of the community but in Harrogate some are still worried by the rules of the roadmap

Friday, 23rd April 2021, 4:27 pm
Updated Friday, 23rd April 2021, 4:28 pm
The Blues Bar in Harrogate.
The Blues Bar in Harrogate.

Harrogate bars have been talking to the Harrogate Advertiser about the cloud that remains over what has been an otherwise bright re-opening for the town's hospitality sector in the last two weeks.

One bar owner affected met with Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones last Friday to discuss the matter.

Since then, Mr Jones says he has been in touch with the Duchy of Lancaster in an attempt to make it easier to use small parts of the Stray for outdoors eating and drinking until lockdown rules ease further, hopefully, on May 17.

After talking to the MP, Simon Colgan, owner of the Blues Bar and the Empress on the Stray, said: “It was a good meeting. Mr Jones said we had his support and he could not understand why they had granted us the use last time and not this time.

“He agreed that a vibrant town centre benefits everyone in the town.”

The Stray Defence Association, which has striven to defend the parkland at all times since being founded in 1933, is on the record as opposing its use for commercial purposes, though events such as UCI cycling championships and Harrogate Fake Festivals have taken place in recent years.

The town’s MP says those protections should be relaxed in this particular situation and the Duchy of Lancaster should refrain from taking any legal action in situations where the council has given permission to a trader or landlord.

Andrew Jones MP said: “As landowners, the Duchy of Lancaster is yet to give its permission for the land to be used in this way even as a temporary measure.

“I have, therefore, written to the Chief Executive of the Duchy of Lancaster and asked him to confirm that the Duchy would not take legal action against the council or businesses the council licences to use small areas of the Stray for this short amount of time.

“That to me seems a common sense approach for the Duchy to take between now and full reopening of our economy in June.”

For many businesses in Harrogate town centre, there is simple delight at being able to trade at all since the new rules came into play on April 12 allowing non-essential shops and cafes, bars and restaurants to reopen.

Blessed by warm sunshine at the first weekend of freedom, Harrogate businesses reported enjoying the strongest levels of footfall since the Christmas run-up last year or, even, since pre-Covid times.

But there is still some discontent over the difficulties and, sometimes, impossibility of some traders in Harrogate’s hospitality sector to operate outdoors only for the moment.

One bar, Starling Independent Bar Cafe Kitchen, has already complained that its request for a temporary pavement licence outside its premises was rejected.

More than a year of restrictions in the nation’s battle to defeat Covid have taken their toll, not only on pubs and bars in Harrogate, but on the town’s brewery sector - even its most famous and successful names.

Daleside Brewery said the return to the sector's whole financial security rested on the rules being relaxed further in the build-up to the summer months.

A spokesperson for the firm based in Starbeck said: “The last year has been a very challenging one for everyone in the industry - on both a personal level and a business level, too.

“We are delighted to see pubs recently start to reopen for outside drinking and, hopefully, inside from the May 17, too.”

The essential fact, however, is that people are back in town enjoying a drink or a bite to eat and seeing friends again.

Whatever happens in regards to the hospitality sector’s access to public space and parts of the Stray, traders themselves believe the enthusiasm of the Harrogate public for what they do offers hope for a successful economic recovery as long as Covid remains under control.

Daleside Brewery added: “We believe pubs are the heart of the community and having these places to meet people and socially interact helps well-being especially after the year we have all just been through.

“The community spirit in our heartland of Harrogate has been fantastic in the last year.”

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