Harrogate: Local Bar Scene

Harrogate is becoming home to a growing number of independent bars offering a more relaxed drinking experience for locals and visitors alike. We caught up with a few of them to find out more…

Just a few years ago, a night out in Harrogate would have meant dressing up and heading for a selection of chain bars with little individuality.

Now, a new breed of bars and pubs with personality is springing up – and the patrons of Harrogate could not be more thrilled about it.

Whether you want a chilled-out Champagne bar or a craft beer specialist with cosy corners, you will find it on the streets of Harrogate – and you’ll more than likely be able to have a chat with the business owner at the bar, too. In just the last 18 months, several of these new-style independent bars have sprung up around town, and one of the areas proving most popular is Parliament Street and its surroundings.

Whether you want a chilled-out Champagne bar or a craft beer specialist with cosy corners, you will find it on the streets of Harrogate.

At the bottom of the hill, just opposite Harrogate International Centre, sits Hoxton North. Almost hidden behind a narrow doorway under an elegant black canopy, it is a public secret that is steadily gaining a loyal following – and not just among those visiting Harrogate for conferences and events.

So what makes Hoxton North different?

Timothy Bosworth, who set up the business with wife Victoria just over 18 months ago after living in London for 12 years, believes it is the ethos and attitude of the business which attracts customers.

“Around 2007, there was a movement for specialist coffee where the difference was that speciality coffee shops in London were showing respect for the providence of the beans,” he said.

“As well as a change of lifestyle for us in moving to Harrogate and starting the business, we wanted an opportunity that could be beneficial to a town with predominantly traditional hospitality-based businesses.”

Turning from coffee shop by day into sophisticated Champagne and wine bar by night, Hoxton North is designed to attract former Londoners who miss the style and passion of businesses in the capital.

“We wanted to bring a point of difference from the London style,” said Timothy. “There are lots of people who live in London for a few years, then move to Harrogate when they are ready to settle down or start a family. It has become a beacon for those wanting to have their London fix.”

Walk up Parliament Street and turn down The Ginnel on the right, and you’ll find another hidden gem. On the first floor of vintage shop Space sits Major Tom’s Social, a relaxed, welcoming bar which was opened in early 2014 by two young men with a passion for beer.

Lee Bellwood, who set up the business with former school friend Toby Smith, said: “It’s going really well.

“We have got lots of events happening here, like a film club, a craft club, a cheese club once a month called Homage 2 Fromage – and we had Horace Panter from The Specials here doing a talk recently, when his artwork was being exhibited at RedHouse Originals.

“Having so many different kinds of events brings a different set of people in. The crowd at a band night is different to the craft night and the quizzes.”

The staff at Hoxton North.

The staff at Hoxton North.

For Lee and Toby, the location has also been a gift for their business. They were invited to set up by Space owner Steve Elvidge, who was moving into the premises – and after they decided to go ahead, good news kept flooding in.

“While we were trying to get our licence, which took nearly a year, we found out about Jamie’s Italian and The Pit opening, which was great. They both help to bring more people to this area,” said Lee.

““There’s a great little community building up around here. The Ginnel is becoming more of a destination now.”

The Pit, almost directly opposite Major Tom’s Social, was established by Arc Inspirations in late June 2014. It is part of a small chain with existing premises in Leeds and York – but this does not mean it compromises on individuality.

From sourcing local ingredients for its menu to offering ping pong tables for a friendly game over a few drinks, The Pit has made its mark on the Harrogate scene in less than a year. Not only that, but its private room upstairs has played host to everything from a marketing presentation for the local tourism industry to flower arranging classes, proving this is not just a venue for post-work drinks and burgers on a Saturday lunchtime.

General manager Gareth Vowles said: “The first couple of weeks after we opened were really busy. After the opening parties, we had the Tour de France going right past, followed straight away by the Great Yorkshire Show.

“That was our first month sorted and we were kept busy, but what has been good is that it has continued. It shows that what we’re doing does appeal to people and it works.”

Of course, like other independent businesses nearby, Gareth recognises the value in finding a good location and building relationships.

“You do need to befriend your neighbours,” he said. “It’s good to have that sense of positivity around town. We’re all in it together.

“We are fortunate here that we have Major Tom’s Social, Ivory and Montey’s nearby – we couldn’t do what we do without them. Together, we can attract more people to the area.

“We know that people want to go to a few different places on a night out. If I was out with friends and the manager of a bar helped us to find something we wanted, like a place for a curry, and was friendly and smiling, I know I’d appreciate it.

“Whether you’re a local or a tourist, it’s that kind of thing that makes you go back somewhere again.”

You can check out our profile for Major Tom’s Social here – http://thefuddle.co.uk/restaurant/major-toms-social/