Businesses in Leeds are ready to reopen but leaders warn this has to be the end of strict restrictions in order to bounce back
Leeds is ready to get back to business as the retail and hospitality sector awaits announcements from the government about a return to trade.
Leaders within the city's economy say that regardless of the timeline that Prime Minister Boris Johnson sets, it needs to be clear and irreversible as businesses from pubs and bars to national retailers and independent creatives, look towards re-building in 2021 after spending much of last year either closed or operating under strict restrictions.
Boris Johnson has said he is "hopeful" coronavirus restrictions can be cautiously eased in the coming weeks, with vaccines providing "grounds for confidence".
The Prime Minister said he wanted the current national lockdown to be the last - and for the unlocking to be "irreversible" - ahead of the publication of his road map on Monday of next week.
Mr Johnson will analyse data this week on coronavirus case numbers, hospital admissions, deaths and the impact of the vaccine rollout as he prepares his plan to reduce restrictions.
He added: "We have been consistent in our messaging that businesses need clarity, confidence and certainty that announcements made by government are based on a long term strategy, that they are unambiguous and not subject to further changes, especially at very short notice.
“The vaccine roll out has provided a boost to confidence and the opportunity to build on this has been acknowledged in the recent Bank of England economic forecast which suggests we will see a strong recovery as lockdown restrictions begin to ease. There is pent up demand within the economy and a strong desire from the public to return to normality.”
His sentiments were echoed by shopping centres across the city who combine retail and hospitality and say the 'experience' of both is crucial to getting people back into the city centre.
A spokesperson for Landsec, which owns White Rose Shopping Centre and Trinity Leeds, said that while safety is the main priority it was "very much looking forward to when we can welcome back customers to all of our retailers as well as our fantastic bars and restaurants, providing a safe and enjoyable experience for all.”
Adam Warner, manager of the Corn Exchange, said he thought there would be a staged re-opening of sectors but the main talk from businesses was they are ready to get going.
He told the Yorkshire Evening Post: "We have to get the economy back again, get moving, get going. It is as important for Leeds as it is Manchester and London. There is lots of progress in the city, lots of building work which is great to see. The vaccine is making a huge difference.
"Perhaps last time, before the current lockdown, when you weren't able to sit in a cafe or get a drink - that is as damaging to the high street as being closed. It is not the experience of being in a town or shopping centre.
"We are missing friends from York and outer regions and our retail friends at Victoria Gate and Trinity, what we are missing is that ability to offer the experience. When we do reopen, the two (retail and hospitality) have to exist in harmony in order for the high street to survive, yes, but to flourish, importantly. It is not about online taking over the world but people are ready to be sociable."
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