Leeds bar and restaurant owners speak of 'relief' at the lifting of all Covid restrictions

Bar and restaurant owners in Leeds have spoken of their relief at the lifting of all Covid restrictions after two years of the pandemic.

By Joanna Wardill
Wednesday, 23rd February 2022, 4:45 am

The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, confirmed on Monday night that the final restrictions will end in England on Thursday and the free mass testing will stop from April 1.

Martin Greenhow, managing director Mojo bar on Merrion Street, said he feels “relief and overwhelmingly positive” about the news but warned there must never be a return to the restrictions which he said “coroded the fabric of society”.

For his business and others, he said a significant factor in the announcement was the lack of emphasis on “test, test, test” which will ease the pressures seen on staffing.

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Martin Greenhow, managing director of Mojo bars. Picture: Gary Longbottom

“We have people who have been away from work awaiting results for tests when they really didn’t need to do a test to begin with - they weren’t ill, they didn’t have any symptoms.

“Not just hospitality - my wife’s a medic and they lost vast swathes of staff who had to test then sit at home for 48 hours, waiting.

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“At Mojo we had situations where we had to close bars due to lack of staff, or we had to modify opening hours or modify our capacities, because we couldn’t service everyone.”

Lily Prescott, who co-owns Wapentake cafe bar on Kirkgate. Picture: James Hardisty

He also welcomed the encouragement to end working from home, to help all industries in business districts which saw their customer base “evaporate”.

“For them it’s essential that we finally see people return to the office,”.

His view was echoed by Chris Howard, owner of Aire bar, on The Calls, who said that remains the key issue affecting their trade.

Of the restrictions lifting in entirety, he said: “We are pleased but I don’t think it will have a massive affect on trade.

Stephanie and Matthew Cliffe at The Assembly bar, Terminus Parade, Station Road, Cross Gates, Leeds. Picture Tony Johnson

“I don’t think we’ll see a big uplift until people are actually back in the office.

“It’s crucial to a lot of business in Leeds.

“So many people have got used to working from home and they like it. But it’s not good for the city centre economy. From that point of view the Government have to lead by example and get the civil service back to the office.”

Lily Prescott, who co-owns Wapentake cafe bar on Kirkgate, said that while the announcement is positive, she expects there will be mixed feelings among customers.

“There are going to be people who are feeling more comfortable about coming in and hopefully we will see more trade in that sense.

“But then I know there will be people who are a bit worried by the news and may potentially not be as willing to come in if they think people who have the virus might be out and about.”

She said she was toying with the idea of catering once a week for those still concerned about the virus, with increased restrictions in place such as table service and mask wearing.

Stephanie Cliffe, who owns The Assembly in Cross Gates, welcomed the announcement.

“It finally feels like we are back to some form of normality so we’re hoping the general public will see the lifting of the restrictions and give them more confidence that the world is starting to reopen, that it is safe to live their normal lives.”

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