After restrictions are lifted, we cannot assume that Leeds’ indies, with their beer gardens, familiar faces, well-stocked bars and tasty offerings, will still be there for us.
Our place at the bar or our favourite corner may no longer exist. The streets and sidewalks of Leeds may still offer brewery-run pubs and corporate chains, which when offered with a mix of independents create that rich variety we’ve come to recognise as one of the City’s great attractions. Diluting that mix and detracting from that variety will diminish the character we all value.
Now, the worrying news that social distancing may have to continue through 2020 has dismayed the hospitality industry, leaving those most vulnerable – the independents – despairing of how they can survive. Bar and restaurant owners in Leeds had no warning, no way of preparing for this crisis, yet that’s the position in which they find themselves. There is no rule book for this, so many owners are having to react as best they can. It might seem dramatic, but it’s fight or fail.
#NationalTimeOut, an initiative launched by the founder of Hospitality Union, Jonathan Downey, may provide a solution, whereby lenders can support landlords, who in turn can relieve the indies of the burden of paying rent. This initiative was backed by some of the leading UK bar and restaurant groups who jointly signed a recent letter to the Treasury.
A number of Leeds bar and restaurant owners have now signed their own letter and raised a petition in support of #NationalTimeOut. Those who may be forced out of business may never be able to return, so if you’re hoping to recapture that camaraderie and familiarity, that favourite seat and tipple, please sign the petition here.
If you are looking for other ways to support individual Leeds independent businesses, check out the newly revamped Leeds Indie Food website. They have put together a fantastic directory that gives you all the information you need about which businesses are open, whether they are doing takeaway, if you can buy vouchers or merchandise from them, and other ideas for supporting the Leeds independent food scene during these unprecedented times.
Photograph provided by Pink Gorilla.