CITY CENTRE bars are calling for a new dedicated task force to prevent a repeat of the recent floods that left parts of Leeds looking like a “Hollywood disaster movie”.
The owners of Aire Bar – one of the worst-hit venues – told the Yorkshire Evening Post that more needs to be done after it was left under several feet of water, causing more than £250,000 in damage and lost revenue.
Owner Christopher Howard said: “It was like something out of a Hollywood disaster movie.
“If this is going to be a regular occurrence in Leeds city centre, we need a dedicated task force to liaise with home owners and businesses.
“We need a system in place and there isn’t one at the moment.”
Mr Howard, who runs the bar with his wife and business partner Louise, has had to strip the building back to its shell and replace everything from the IT systems and air conditioning to the electrics.
Despite the huge setback, the couple is determined to make sure the bar is up and running again.
He added: “Financially this has wiped out the last 11 years of good business that we’ve had.
“But if I walk away now I’d be throwing away the last 11 years of my life.”
Aire Bar was uninsured for the flood damage – a difficult choice the couple had to make after they were offered quotes of around £50,000 excess following the 2007 floods.
But thanks to help from the public and local businesses, it is due to re-open tomorrow.
Mr Howard added: “The only positive to come out of it has been the unbelievable community spirit.
“People have been delivering us lunch, coffee and even helped clear the debris and offered us an office space to work from.
“You would expect that in a small village but for people to do things like that in Leeds city centre, where people are fairly transient and faceless, is just unbelievable and truly humbling.”
New bar Sid’s Little Egg, at Bridge End, was another victim of the floods.
Opening just a few weeks before the downpours, its basement bar was under 7ft feet of water and the ground floor bar was also flooded.
It is now expected to fully re-open next week.
Co-owner George Tucker, 25, said: “A task force would definitely be something we’d be interested in.
“If we had more preparation and help on how to sort things out should it happen again, that would be useful.”
Responding to the suggestions, a Leeds City Council spokesman said: “We have maintained an ongoing dialogue with businesses across Leeds as we continue to help them recover from the impact of last month’s flooding and officers have sought to visit all city centre businesses that were affected.
“To date, support has included a £5m fund in partnership with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority Investment Committee which has allowed small and medium sized enterprises across Leeds City Region to apply for grants to help them get back on their feet.
“Help and advice is also being provided by the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership’s growth managers, the council, Chambers of Commerce and the Manufacturing Advisory Service.
“The council has discussed holding a meeting with affected businesses in the city centre and we would be keen to hear from any affected firms who would like to be involved.
“We would also urge all local businesses who think they may be susceptible to flooding to ensure they have taken the proper precautions.”
Both bars are soon due to have work carried out as part of the £45m Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme, which will see work carried out along a 4.3km stretch of the River Aire in the city centre from the train station to Thwaite Mills.
The scheme includes the installation of innovative moveable weirs and aims to protect over 3,000 homes and 500 businesses against floods.
It is due to be completed in Spring 2017 and is one of the largest river flood defence schemes in the country.
The scheme is being funded by Leeds City Council amongst other partners.
Businesses affected by the floods can also get part of a £5m fund endorsed by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s Investment Committee.
The Business Flood Recovery Fund aims to help small and medium sized enterprises across the Leeds City Region to recover from the recent floods.
For details, or to find out more, you can call 0113 348 1818 or e-mail email@example.com.
More information about the funding is also available via the website at www.the-lep.com/floodsupport.