Remembering Gerry McManus

Remembering Gerry McManus

It is with great sadness the business community in Leamington town centre learnt of the sudden death of Royal Priors centre manager Gerry McManus.

The ‘gentle giant’ passed away on Monday (September 11) following a short illness. He was 53 years-old and is survived by his wife and two children.

Coventry City fan Gerry had a long and illustrious career at the Leamington centre, and many have spoken about what he meant to them.

Friend and colleague Stephanie Kerr, director of BID Leamington said “Gerry was a champion of all things good. He was hugely generous and a team player who believed that when we work together in a town, we all benefit.

“As one of the key instigators of BID Leamington over ten years ago, he served as a board member with passion, positivity and good sense throughout. This was among the things he was very proud of – in his words ‘working to make sure the jewel in Warwickshire’s crown is sparkling’.

“While always proud of his Coventry roots, his passion for Leamington was unbounded and he had that special quality of being someone people loved to work with. As a good friend and colleague he will be always remembered and greatly missed. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.”

Staff at the Royal Priors say they will miss their close friend and manager.

A spokesman said: “We can confirm that Gerry has died after a short illness and our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time.

“Gerry was a fantastic presence in the centre and he brought his wealth of knowledge, experience and enthusiasm to his job every day. He was a hugely popular, much-loved and well-respected figure across the Leamington community and will be sorely missed.”

Kelly Iles, Owner of Spangles American Diner – which until recently was based in the Priors opposite Wilkos – has also spoken of her shock.

She said: “Spangles would never of been created or existed had it not been for this man. He took a risk on the little independent nobody that was me, helped me start my diner, my dream and vision, believed in me and let me bend the rules a bit but not too much and guided me in business.

“Sometimes in life paths cross for a reason. Today I lost a true true friend and the world lost a truly great man. He has left a hole which will never be filled.”

And Leamington Chamber of Trade also voiced their sadness at the loss.

A spokesman said: “Gerry was a stalwart voluntary member of the Leamington Chamber Exec team and contributed greatly to the town’s well being for many years.

“As well as being a past Chair of the Chamber, Gerry’s significant involvement will be sorely missed in the Safer Neighbourhoods Forum, Town Centre Strategy Forum and Town Centre Management Partnership.

“The Chamber Exec team would like to extend our sincere condolences to his family and friends at this sad time.”

Gerry also was well-known in the American football community, having played the sport from the early 1980s.

He coached Coventry Jets between 2005 and 2011, seeing them win many games and move up through the championships.

A spokesman for the team said: “We are absolutely devastated to hear of the passing of former Jets coach and Midlands football legend Gerry McManus.

“A much respected person across all of Britball and one who helped us to become a championship winning team.

“Our thoughts and condolences to everyone associated with a truly wonderful man.”

And Leamington personal trainer Richard Draper also expressed his condolences.

He said: “What a great man and a great loss to friends, family and football. So very sad.

“Many game days and nights spent with this gentle giant. Wonderful footballer and outstanding football coach. Will be missed so much.”

A social media page has been set up for those who wish to pay tribute to Gerry. Sear ‘Remembering Gerry McManus’ on Facebook to find out more.

Partnership Approach to Targeting Shoplifting

Partnership Approach to Targeting Shoplifting

Businesses in Leamington have joined forces with police to crack down on retail crime. Patrols by undercover and uniformed officers have been stepped up to tackle shoplifters within the town centre in an initiative spearheaded by BID Leamington and Warwickshire Police.

Four arrests were made within the first four days of the on-going operation which was launched following a spate of shoplifting over Christmas.

Stephanie Kerr, executive director of BID Leamington, said it was the latest partnership initiative by the business-led organisation as part of its drive to increase the appeal of the town and improve trading performance.

She said: “Leamington is no different to any other town centre in terms of shoplifting.  However, over the Christmas period there were some significant issues which prompted us to work with retailers and Warwickshire Police to tackle the problem.

“By pro-actively addressing the problem together we have been able to deliver a really successful campaign that has included plain clothes officers monitoring areas of the town centre, increased police visibility and a mobile police unit.”

Operations involve uniformed and plain clothes police officers, police community support officers (PCSOs) and special constables carrying out random patrols in an attempt to catch prolific and amateur shoplifters.

PCSO Jamie Cortez, from Warwickshire Police, said: “A number of operations have been carried out and these will continue several times a month. The first four days resulted in four people being arrested and subsequently charged.

“Our message to shoplifters is that we are watching you and just because you may not see us in visible uniform, does not mean we are not out there.”

Marks and Spencer, which has outlets on The Parade and within Royal Priors Shopping Centre, are among the retailers supporting the initiative.

Ann Jeffrey, from Marks and Spencer, said: “Stock loss is a problem for businesses and this initiative over the festive period had a significant impact at a very important time of year.

“It is not only helping to reduce theft but also has a positive effect on the working environment for our staff who can find having to deal with shoplifters difficult as it can be quite disruptive and intimidating.”

Les Watkins is deputy manager of Royal Priors and chairman of the Leamington Retail Crime Initiative, which runs the radio scheme linked to the town centre’s CCTV to help retailers identify prolific and banned offenders.

He said: “The town centre’s retail radio network and CCTV operation are an essential part of how we all work together to fight against crime and we welcome these further initiatives from the police to support our retailers to specifically help combat shoplifting.”

PICTURE CAPTION: Pictured, from left to right, are PCSO Alex Young (Warwickshire Police), Stephanie Kerr, Les Watkins, Sarah Jones (operations manager at Royal Priors Shopping Centre and Regent Court), Luke Beardmore (food commercial manager at Marks and Spencer), PCSO Jamie Cortez and Natasha Grant (home commercial manager at Marks and Spencer).

‘Taste Leamington’ Online Hub Launches

‘Taste Leamington’ Online Hub Launches

An online hub for Royal Leamington Spa’s eateries has been launched to showcase the enviable line-up of fantastic restaurants and cafes in the town centre.

An A to Z list of more than 100 restaurants, cafes, bars, pubs and other eating establishments within the town centre, from Altoria Bar and Grill to Zou Bisou, is featured on the new Taste Leamington website.

The site, launched by BID Leamington, is designed to celebrate their offering and help visitors find their perfect place to eat, drink and party!

Stephanie Kerr, executive director of BID Leamington, said: “Leamington has an impressive mix of independent and national outlets that could rival many towns and cities and we were being contacted more frequently by people who had specific requests.

“Recognising that quite often choices were defined by more than flavour, the site is designed to celebrate what we have and help visitors find exactly what they are looking for.

“This is all part of working together to ensure customers receive the very best visitor experience, from the moment they consider visiting. We also hope they will benefit from the reviews and offers as well.”

The search menu identifies different venues with options ranging from venue type, party size or when you are visiting. Dietary requirement and desirable services can also be identified, such as delivery, online booking or dog friendly outlets.

You can also travel the world of flavours with cuisine choices that include Argentinian, Brazilian, Iranian, Japanese and Caribbean plus many more.
As well as a venue directory, the site features news and reviews, blogs and vlogs, events and experiences, and special offers.
Restaurant 23 and Morgan’s Bar in Hamilton Terrace is among the establishments featured on the site.

Executive chef Curtis Stewart said: “Leamington has a wonderful food offering for a town of its size and to have a digital platform that supports and promotes it is a great asset.

“I have been here six months and people do seem to associate Restaurant 23 as a special occasion venue when we have some fantastic offerings whether lunch, pre-theatre or Sunday brunch.

“It’s imperative that we broaden our horizon to a wider audience and make people aware that we are not just a special occasion venue and you can come here for a casual meal. Taste Leamington will help us to achieve that.”

The Royal Leamington Spa website run by BID Leamington, which links to the new Taste Leamington site, attracts nearly 30,000 visitors a month. Its social media channels have over 17,000 followers.

Stephanie added: “Over the years we have worked on building a strong audience for businesses in the town centre and anything that is featured on Taste Leamington will be amplified across our digital platforms.

“It’s all about us working together with businesses to extend their reach and help make their voices heard.”

The dedicated site builds upon the hugely popular Leamington Food and Drink Festival, organised by BID Leamington with the support of local businesses, which attracts around 25,000 visitors from all over the country.

Now in its tenth year, it is regarded as one of the best autumn food festivals in the country and returns to the Pump Room Gardens on Saturday, September 9 and Sunday, September 10.

A new addition to the town’s foodie calendar this year is the Fiesta of Flavour being run by Regent Court, in association with Taste Leamington, on Saturday, May 6 and Sunday, May 7 to showcase its range of eateries with masterclasses, tastings and competitions.

For more information visit www.tasteleamington.com

Chris White MP Welcomes Feedback

Chris White MP Welcomes Feedback

As news of the rates revaluation spread, businesses around the UK began to voice concerns. BID Leamington received the following letter from our local MP Chris White. 

Dear Stephanie,

As I am sure you are aware, proposals regarding business rates have been under close scrutiny in recent days.

I am writing to seek your views, and your member businesses, not least so I may better represent any concerns you may have.

The Government is raising the threshold for 100% business rate relief to £12,000, with a tapered rate to £15,000.  I am fully supportive of this measure as I recognise the importance of small and medium-sized enterprises and in particular, the independent sector, to Warwick and Leamington.  However, I am keen to understand any issues that may arise from the revaluation process.

I am closely monitoring the Government’s approach to business rates and am happy to raise any concerns that you may have with the relevant Ministers.  I would therefore be grateful if you could share this letter with your members and I would encourage them to write to me with their views.  I can be contacted at chris.white.mp@parliament.uk.

Finally, I would like to reaffirm my commitment to doing all I can to support local businesses in our area.  You are the reason that Warwick and Leamington has seen a 74% fall in unemployment since 2010 and I am always keen to work to strengthen our local economy further.

Yours sincerely,

Chris White MP
Member of Parliament for Warwick & Leamington
House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 7201

After consulting a number of businesses we responded and our response can be seen in our blog. Please do not hesitate to contact us or Chris White MP directly with any further concerns.

Food Festival expands into Town Centre

Food Festival expands into Town Centre

One of the UK’s largest free food and drink festivals will cook up a storm with the addition of a new exhibition area at the event.

Foodie fever will spill into the town centre throughout the weekend of the two day event, with nine independent and national chain stores getting in on the action to provide a fringe-style event with Q and A sessions, food sampling, freebies and discounts.

Town centre retailers and restaurateurs will be serving up a treat in Regent Court as part of the annual Royal Leamington Spa Food and Drink Festival, which takes place in the Royal Pump Room Gardens on September 10 and 11.

Businesses involved include Turtle Bay, Gusto, Rosie’s Tea Room, LK Bennett, Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Prezzo, Lille Perle and Jaeger, with entertainment provided by jazz band, the Sheila Fawkes quintet, who will be performing live.

Warwickshire food blogger and journalist Ellen Manning, of Eat With Ellen, will also join the line up to host a live Q and A session with local chefs in Regent Court. Ellen regularly reviews eateries across the region and will be offering her best culinary tips and advice on both Saturday, 10, and Sunday, September 11.

Stephanie Kerr, executive director of BID Leamington which organises the festival, said: “After nine years, the Food and Drink Festival is seen as a highlight in the town’s event calendar and we know thousands of people visit from all over the country.

“With so many visitors in the town centre it is great to be able to show off our fabulous food and drink offer to the fullest, so we are very pleased to have the Regent Court businesses supporting our first ever ‘Fringe Food Fest’.

“This year we have over 50 town centre businesses involved – be it on stalls, demonstrating on the Live Kitchen, judging competitions or offering tasters, so there is going to be something for everyone.”

Visitors to this year’s festival can expect to sample exotic cuisines from more than 150 exhibitors, ranging from Italian breads and pastries to Indian street food, Zimbabwean preserves, alcoholic liqueurs and healthy smoothies.

A host of other activities will also take place in the Pump Room Gardens, which Stephanie said will make for an exciting programme of demonstrations, cooking and baking competitions, live music and entertainment.

She added: “As with every year, we will be hosting a number of popular activities in addition to the many delicious eateries exhibiting.

“Action over the course of the weekend will include the return of the Great Leamington Bake Off, which invites bakers to enter cakes and have them judged by the town’s best local chefs, as well as the Home Cook Of The Year competition.

“Organised by Leamington butcher’s Aubrey Allen, it’s been running since 2014 and will judge entrants on a three course cooking challenge, with the winner being crowned Leamington’s finest amateur chef.

“This year’s festival will also see children encouraged to get involved, with a kid’s cookery school hosted by Gusto Restaurant, Nandos, Pizza Express and Yo! Sushi.”

For more information on the fringe event in Regent Court and to find out what offers are available, visit http://www.leamingtonfoodfestival.co.uk/

Three New Independent Eateries for Warwick Street

Three New Independent Eateries for Warwick Street

Leamington’s appetite for independent eateries has been indulged with the launch of three new cafés and restaurants in the town centre within six months.

The Tame Hare, Aubrey Allez and The Steamhouse have all opened in Warwick Street to further enhance the town’s diverse and vast offering to food and drink lovers.

Each eatery is independently-owned – with one owner returning to the town from the Cotswolds, and one café an extension of a family-run butchers and catering company.

Home to more than 50 bars and restaurants in the town centre alone, Leamington Spa is renowned for its varied and distinctive dining offering.

Stephanie Kerr, executive director of BID Leamington, said the new restaurants were a major boost not only for the town’s economy but also its lively and colourful identity.

“These new restaurants follow the opening of a number of new independent stores across the town centre, revealing the continuing trend and popularity of small business in Leamington,” she said.

“The town is a champion of independent business and this is shown by the collaborative, community approach many adopt.

“Both Aubrey Allan and The Tame Hare will be exhibiting at this year’s Food and Drink Festival, and we look forward to helping them raise their profile at the popular event.”

Most recently opened is café and takeaway shop, Aubrey Allez. A new arm to Leamington’s largest catering company and butchers, Aubrey Allan, the ‘food to go’ store is situated next door to the company’s butchers and delicatessen and serves breakfast, fresh salads, coffee and sandwiches.

Peter Allan, chair of Aubrey Allan, said: “Aubrey Allan is already a well-established, award-winning butchers and catering company, and one of the town’s biggest employers.

“The next natural step was to branch out into running our own restaurant, which will really boost our share in the market and help to enhance our reputation as experts in food and catering.”

The Tame Hare offers seasonal British food and is a family-run endeavour between chef director Jonathan Mills and father, Simon Mills.

Jonathan, who previously ran a pub in the Cotswolds and relocated to Leamington Spa to launch The Tame Hare, said: “I’m born and bred in Leamington so when the opportunity arose to manage my own venue, my father and I jumped at the chance.

“We’ve had great feedback already and a lot of repeat customers, which is really promising.

“It’s great to have the support of local businesses and BID Leamington – we’re already signed up to exhibit at the Food and Drink Festival, which we’re looking forward to.”

The Steamhouse, a specialist bagel shop offering New York deli bagels and coffee, is a new joint venture for Ashley Baker and partner, Kayleigh O’Mahony.

The pair – who previously managed their own business selling fresh coffee from a VW van at events – decided to take their work to the next level by opening their own restaurant.

Ashley said: “After enjoying a successful stint touring major events across the UK, we discovered a love of hospitality and catering but yearned to take the business to the next level with a permanent base.

“Leamington is an affluent and charming town popular with tourists, students and shoppers, so the ideal fit for The Steamhouse.

“We’ve had a really warm welcome and are now hosting music nights in collaboration with local businesses, and in recognition of the town’s major student population, we now deliver through Deliveroo.”