Sunday, 18 April 2021

NOW BRING ON SUMMER

BUSINESSES in Henley are hoping for a bumper summer with the announcement that this year’s royal regatta is set to go ahead after all.

It means that all the town’s major summer events are now scheduled to take place, albeit later than usual and in a different form because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Shops, pubs and restaurants normally have their best trading period before and during the regatta and Henley Festival and hope the later dates will prove just as fruitful. Organisers plan to hold the six-day event in the week of Monday, August 9 — more than a month later than usual — but almost certainly with fewer spectators than the tens of thousands that come normally.

By then, the Government’s coronavirus restrictions should have been lifted as long as the vaccine rollout continues successfully.

The revised calendar of the other events is now as follows:

Henley Festival Summer Fling, Butler’s Field, Remenham, Thursday to Saturday, July 8-10.

Rewind Festival, Temple Island Meadows, Friday to Sunday, August 20-22.

Thames Traditional Boat Festival, Fawley Meadows, Friday to Monday, August 27-30.

Henley Festival — Wednesday to Sunday, September 15-19.

Grace Leo, co-owner of the former Red Lion Hotel, said she was pleased that the regatta would take place in Henley and not at Dorney Lake in Buckinghamshire, which had been considered as a possible alternative venue.

She is currently refurbishing the hotel, which she bought last year, and plans to re-open it in July as the Relais Henley. Ms Leo said: “We are thrilled it’s happening and that it is actually going to happen in Henley, as it should be. We were a little bit worried when the other venue was announced as moving it there would have had an impact on all the people in Henley.

“The Government is indicating people should stay in their own country and not go overseas or abroad, which will hopefully benefit the hospitality industry and leisure hotels such as ourselves.”

David Holliday, who co-owns the Hart Street Tavern in Henley and the Bottle and Glass pub in Binfield Heath, said: “The regatta happening is great news for the area after all the months of the pandemic we have been through. It is something nice and positive and shows that things are slowly starting to get back to normal.

“Hopefully, we will have a nice spring and summer and I’d like to think there will be a big boost to the economy with staycations. Around hear there are lots of pubs with beer gardens that hopefully will be full.

“Normally we see a slight lull in the middle of August, when people tend to go away on holiday, but hopefully we it can remain strong throughout the summer.”

Joe Miller, landlord of the Row Barge pub in West Street, said: “It is good news as I think everyone is dying to get out and enjoy themselves again.

“The more events that can go ahead the better it will be for business and for people.”

Natalie Johnson, who runs the Handywater Cottage bed and breakfast in Lower Assendon with her husband Raymond, said: “In August we will be busy, with or without the regatta, but I am really excited that it’s happening.

“We have been getting more bookings and we have found that more people are looking to travel to us from not far away, just to get out of their homes and have someone cook breakfast for them. They just want to stay somewhere that is not home.”

Laurence Morris, who runs a menswear shop in Duke Street, said: “It is fantastic and what Henley needs. It will have a massive impact on the businesses here. From my perspective, people will want to dress up and enjoy the social aspect which we missed last year.

“It goes without saying that this last lockdown has been extremely tough on everybody and as retailers we want to be open again. Having the regatta in August and the festival after that will really extend the summer and that is really positive.”

Marion Crocker, proprietor of the Estilo boutique in Duke Street, said: “The regatta coming back is very positive news for people like us. We tend to be busier the week before regatta when people come to their accommodation.

“With everything that has happened people now might come for a week or two weeks in the absence of going abroad and we hope that there will be a lovely buzzy atmosphere again. Last year, we were open when the regatta would otherwise have happened and there was a definite void in trade and atmosphere.

“I already had it in my head that it wasn’t going to happen this year but to have it on and in August will hopefully elongate the summer season, which will be very good and help us start to make up for the lost trade.”

Claudia de Biasi, co-owner of the Cecilia Quinn shoe boutique in Bell Street, said: “Like all businesses, we are really struggling with the pandemic but twinned with the way the vaccine rollout has been going this is really welcome news.

“We work with beautiful Italian shoes for everyday use but also for occasions such as weddings and we haven’t really had many of those, so we have sold few of those kinds of shoes in the last year.”

Shaun Dickens, who runs Bistro at the Boathouse in Station Road, said: “I suspect that it will be a very different regatta this year, particularly from the point of view of corporate entertaining, but it will definitely be a step towards normality.

“We got over the loss of last year and we have now understood how to run our business without it, so we can now really benefit from it when it does happen. It is great to have something in the diary to look forward to.” Lorraine Hillier, who runs the Hot Gossip coffee house in Reading Road, said: “Having the regatta in Henley will give people a real lift and is something to look forward to.

“We can survive if it doesn’t happen, although we do benefit from people coming to us in the mornings and picking up a coffee before going to the regatta site.

“We rely more on good weather. It is the pubs and restaurants that will really benefit from it and will boost the night-time economy.”

Miss Hillier, a town and district councillor, added: “For the town itself, the regatta is a great thing and it may feel a lot more personal this year, something that’s more for the locals as there won’t likely be the same level of tourists.”

Niki Schäfer, who chairs the Henley Business Partnership, said: “We were jubilant.

“Henley can be Henley and we can have a few days, to whatever extent, where we can express ourselves as a town.

“I hope that everybody can participate and support the shops and that lots of people can come and see what a beautiful town we have.

“We have had to put up with so much this is a nice reward.”

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