"WE have less than four months to maximise the use of al fresco York," said a leading business figure as the city leaves lockdown.

Andrew Lowson, executive director of York BID, says two crucial phases are needed to get the city moving again - building confidence, and making the best use of York's public spaces.

"This is particularly important given many city businesses may struggle given their own confined space, and this applies particularly to the hospitality sector," he said.

"How can we use some of the squares and wider boulevards to benefit businesses? Can we partner with the owners of city centre green spaces to open these up to traders too?"

York BID, which works to support city businesses and wider community, has sponsored The Press Love Local Business campaign to promote the city, build consumer confidence, and highlight support available to businesses.

Andrew said: "The council is making some positive noises about working with the police on extending licensing areas to help cafés, bars and restaurants reopen. National guidance will dictate much of this and BIDs are lobbying government.

"It is also something the York BID is ideally placed to support; first by linking businesses to relevant landowners, and then putting together tangible offers to encourage people to visit. Time is of the essence. Given that the weather turns darker and colder come October, we have less than four months to maximise the use of al fresco York.

"So that’s where we are, as the city prepares to emerge cautiously out of lockdown. To make the most of the next critical few weeks, York has to be on the top of its game. But if we all work together, it will be."

Love Local launched on Monday to coincide with the reopening of non-essential shops.

Andrew said the first step was about 'getting the basics right'. "That means giving people the confidence to access York city centre, having the right offer for them when they come, and ensuring they feel safe and comfortable throughout their trip."

Some of this was in hand, he said, with public toilets reopening and clear signage.

He said he was pleased to see that views from partners including the BID, Federation of Small Business, Make it York and Chamber of Commerce, had fed into the council's Economic Recovery, Transport and Place Strategy - with extended footstreets and a clear system to guide people safely around York.

He said traders also had their own contribution to make, and he was heartened to see how York’s business owners had placed staff safety and wellbeing as their foremost concern.

"None of us has ever done this before, so mistakes will be made. But York must be ready to learn from any teething troubles, and to adapt quickly.

"It is vital to ensure people feel the city centre is a safe, supportive and welcoming environment.

"If they don’t, they will take their trade elsewhere. If they enjoy their experience, they will return and recommend the experience to friends."

*Email details of your business and coronavirus story to nadia.jeffersonbrown@thepress.co.uk