A week on from the national easing of lockdown and latest figures show Manchester’s businesses have welcomed back visitors in their thousands as the hospitality industry and shops reopened last Monday for the first time since Christmas.
The City Council has been working closely with CityCo, Manchester Business Improvement District, and the city’s businesses throughout lockdown to ensure that venues and shops can reopen and trade as safely as possible.
Reopening day on Monday 12th April saw footfall spike in key areas of the city centre.
Overall visitor numbers were up 193% compared to the previous week, and up +17% on Market Street compared to the same week in 2019.
The week Monday 12th – Saturday 17th April saw overall footfall on Market Street up +20%, compared to 2019 prior to the pandemic.
The city’s cafes, bars and restaurants have been reporting high numbers of customers eager to take advantage of post-lockdown freedoms and the spring weather.
350 licences have now been provided to hospitality venues to allow them to increase outdoor seating in line with legislation agreed in response to COVID-19 to allow businesses to welcome guests back with a much lower risk of virus transmission.
The re-opening has also seen the continuation of traffic-free streets and public realm in the Northern Quarter (Thomas Street, Edge Street, Stevenson Square), and the council is now taking the opportunity to consider how these arrangements might be sustained as part of refreshed thinking around the city centre and its infrastructure.
Portaloos have been installed in St Ann’s Square and Piccadilly Gardens in response to the increased number of people out and about, and visitors to the city centre are being helped each day by a team of eight COVID marshals providing advice and managing areas of the city where groups and crowds may cause an issue around social distancing.
All outside spaces are visited each day by a team of council, City Co and Greater Manchester Police officers to review the management of hospitality areas and ensure regulations are being adhered to.
The upswing in visitors to the city centre has also been reflected in the number of people using the city’s transport network.
Last Tuesday, 6.2m trips were recorded on Greater Manchester roads, up by 468,000 (8%) on the previous week.
Across public transport there was also a significant uplift, with the number of bus journeys rising by 41% (to 260,000) and Metrolink journeys up by 59% (or 17,000 trips).
“This last week has felt nothing short of a rebirth for the city,” said Joanne Roney OBE, Chief Executive of Manchester City Council.
It’s been wonderful to see shops open again and the city really start to come back to life in all this glorious spring weather which has helped ensure cafes and bars in the city centre can trade safely outside.
“Manchester is a city of reinvention, of creating opportunity out of adversity – and we are at our best when we work together, listening and doing things differently.
“Opening the city up with increased public space, working with businesses to open safely, finding new ways of working to make sure the hospitality industry can operate outside. Innovation has been key.
“Being a city centre resident myself, it has been remarkable to see this work play out, and it’s with big thanks to our fantastic businesses and partners – such as United City group – who have helped us re-imagine the city post-COVID.
“Of course, this is not without major challenges and safety must continue to be at the forefront of our thinking.
“But for a city of reinvention – and recovery – there’s nowhere I’d rather be.”
Vaughan Allen, Chief Exec of CityCo, The City Centre Management Company, and Manchester Business Improvement District, said: “With the glorious sunshine and so many people back in the city centre, the first week of reopening has been brilliant to see.
“CityCo and Manchester BID have worked closely with the Council and hundreds of venues to ensure a safe return to business, with much work behind-the-scenes to set up the extended number of outside eating and drinking areas.
“Our team of City Hosts are out and about to offer a hand to returning visitors, and we are coordinating regular street washing to ensure the city is welcoming.
“We’re delighted to see so many shoppers and people enjoying themselves, and will continue to support businesses with their operations as the national reopening calendar continues.”