Business leaders praise "significant step" towards recovery and expect bumper weekend in Leeds
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From Monday (May 17), pubs and restaurants were able to welcome customers back indoors, household visits resumed and the foreign holiday ban ended.
Many Leeds residents headed to their favourite venues around Leeds earlier this week - with some sneaking in a pint during their lunch break or meeting friends.
The city centre was buzzing with both inside and outside seating areas now available as options for hospitality.
Andrew Cooper, Chief Executive Leeds Business Improvement District, said footfall was not back to pre-pandemic levels.
However, he had seen a "steady improvement" this week as confidence returns - described as a "big step" to help people enjoy the city centre.
Speaking to the YEP, Mr Cooper said: "“We have seen from the 2020 reopening how significant the hospitality sector is to the local economy and its importance in supporting the retail offer in the city.
"Footfall is still recovering and not back to pre-pandemic levels however we are seeing a steady improvement this week as confidence returns and customers book restaurants and leisure facilities – a big step in people being able to enjoy all that the city centre has to offer.
“Reports indicate that bookings for the city’s hospitality sector are strong.
"Shopping centres and business premises have invested significantly to ensure the customer experience is a safe one.
"It is great to see people returning to the city with a smile.”
LeedsBID, the business improvement district in the city, is supporting reopening through a Dinosaur Egg Hunt which starts on Saturday 29th May 2021, as covered in the YEP.Mark Goldstone is the Head of Business Representation & Policy at the West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce.
He described the latest phase of lockdown restrictions lifting as a "significant step towards recovery".
Mr Goldstone told the YEP: "The ability for firms to plan activities, invest in safe workplaces, rebuild inventories and bring back staff is down to the successful vaccine roll out and a route map out of restrictions, allowing them to plan with some degree of confidence.
"The start, stop, restart approach taken in 2020 was enormously frustrating and wasted precious cash reserves for firms struggling from previous lockdowns.
Mr Goldstone said he had heard some venues reporting up to three week waiting lists as people "look to return to some kind of normality".
He added: "We understand that city centre footfall is nearing 80% of the equivalent week in 2019 and certainly from my wanderings, around the city centre in particular, there is definitely a buzz in the air.
"It will be important to see how the office community responds and whether staff will return to pre-Covid levels of workplace occupation or whether firms will encourage a more hybrid blend of office and home working.
"We think the latter will be most likely.
"Clearly the new Covid variant is a concern and we hope that this does not lead us back into further restrictions once more. ”
“Indoor attractions play a huge role in attracting diverse demographics from all age groups into the city centre and in turn this generates additional spend elsewhere from car-parks to burger bars, retailers and bars.
"I also think after a year of restrictions, many will be eager to get back to that real life experience which is difficult to replicate online.”
Mr Goldstone said he was expecting a bumper weekend across the city, but encouraged responsibility.
He said: "I am sure we will see many people returning back to hospitality venues this weekend, we would just encourage responsibility as we are not yet out of the crisis.”