Click here to download the full Leeds Leisure Focus.
Leeds has long since re-invented itself moving away from its industrial heritage. It is now widely regarded as the second financial centre within the UK. Being so heavily finance driven, the recent melt down of the UK economy hit the city particularly hard and the leisure sector was not immune to this. Despite this, the city is starting to prosper again with business and development growing at its strongest levels since the start of the 2008 recession. With growth seemingly set to continue Leeds is cementing its place as one of the top 5 major cities in the UK and the regional capital of Yorkshire and Humberside.
Leeds is home to a population of 1.7 million people in its wider urban area, it benefits from over 75,000 students on a yearly basis and is quoted as having had 23 million visits for business and pleasure purposes in 2013. The city benefits from a number of attractions including over one mile of indoor shopping complexes within the city centre, the recently built Leeds Arena, the Royal Armouries, Leeds Art Gallery, Leeds City Museum, Armley Mills Industrial Museum,Temple Newsam and Roundhay Park. The proximity of Leeds to a number of other areas also gives visitors easy access to the likes of Harewood House, the historic city of York, the Spa town of Harrogate and the Yorkshire Dales.
Development within the city centre has been extensive since the late 1980's and early 1990's. This slowed between 2008 and 2012 but it is now starting a pace again. 2013 saw the opening of the Trinity Shopping Centre which offers over 1 million sq. ft. of retail space under a unique glass dome, and the 13,000 seat Leeds Arena which is attracting some of the worlds top acts to the city.
The development continues, with work having commenced on the new Eastgate Centre, the first phase of which will offer a further 49,000 sq. ft. of covered shopping space, 26,000 sq. ft. of which will be occupied by John Lewis department store. A similar sized second phase is planned to follow once the first phase is complete.
In addition to the extensive retail offering and visitor attractions, the city has a vibrant art scene with the Leeds Arena, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds Grand, the City Varieties and O2 Academy. Leeds also plays host to the Chapeltown carnival which is the largest West Indian carnival in the UK after Notting Hill in London.
Further focus was also on the city in 2014 with the Tour de France departing from the city centre before spending 2 days touring the counties of North, West and South Yorkshire. The boost to trade experienced by licensed and leisure outlets that were on or close to the route was significant over the course of the weekend.
On the back of "Le Tour" it has been announced that a 3 day Tour of Yorkshire professional cycle race will start on an annual basis from 2015.
As a major regional and business centre, Leeds has a number of long established hotels within the city centre. The Queens Hotel, The Metropole and the Cosmopolitan (formerly the Golden Lion Hotel) to name but a few. Over time these have been added to by the usual mix of well known brands offering a variety of service levels including Malmaison, Radisson, Novotel, Express by Holiday Inn, Ibis and many more. The city is now moving forward with increased levels of development having taken place and more being planned, in readiness for theanticipated growth in demand over the next 10 years and beyond.
Recent statistics show that following a sluggish performance through the recession, this optimism is well justified. In the 12 months to April 2014, the average occupancy in Leeds hotels rose to 75.4%, an increase year on year of 2.3%. Average room rates reached £67.69 which is a 6.43% increase year on year. As a result, revenue per available room (REVPAR) shows an increase at 9.84% year on year.* This all indicates that the hotel sector in the city isin the ascendency with improving margins in a growing market making conditions ripe for the development of additional stock.
Confidence in the city has already been demonstrated by the opening of the 131 bed Premier Inn at Leeds Arena in 2013 and continues to be shown by the ongoing construction of the 206 bed Hampton by Hilton close by. Planning permission has also recently been granted for a 4 star 90 bed Dakota hotel in the heart of the cities business district, which is scheduled to openin 2016.
As to the future, we see no easing up of demand. With the recession now starting to recede the growth of the finance markets (in which Leeds is so strong) will lead to more business related demand. Major development schemes also continuing apace in the city, with The Eastgate/Victoria Quarter following on the back of Trinity.
In the longer term the connectivity of the city has the potential for further growth with proposals starting to take shape in relation to the city's transport links. These are currently centring on expanding Leeds Bradford Airport, the HS2 rail link and the proposed HS3 Leeds to Manchester link.
Pubs & Bars
The pub and bar scene in Leeds is one of great variety offering an abundance of different styles to suit all tastes. Some outlets are focused on daytime trade and others on the late night market, run by a mixture of operators, both large and small from the usual high street chain brands such as Wetherspoons, Tiger Tiger, Yates, Living Room and All Bar One, through to smaller local multiples offering more quirky off pitch sites and traditional real ale pubs.
In recent times the city has experienced a large growth in the blossoming craft beer market,including the Hub by Ossett Brewery, Veritas by MTT and Crowd of Favours by Leeds Brewery. These different types and styles of operation cater for all, from the young end of the market tostudents and from professionals to those looking for something a bit more sedate. Food has also become an established and integral part of the vast majority of operations and is both traditional and modern in style.
The city benefits from having a number of distinct circuits all around the city centre. The more established circuits include the Greek Street/Park Row area which is now dominated by food operators. The Boar Lane/Call Lane area of the city has become more niche and trendy and has benefited from the overflow from Trinity. There is also the Millennium Square/Merrion Gate area, which is still a wet based circuit with a variety of different corporate and independent operators. The areas around the canal including Brewery and Granary Wharf have seen significant change in the last 10-20 years and this has also led to a number of licensed premises springing up almost creating their own mini circuits.
The opening of the new arena on the north side of the city centre has led to a regeneration of this area with an increasing focus on licensed operations. The last 12 months has seen a number of local operators open new venues, particularly around the Merrion Street /Vicar Lane area. Such openings have included the Pit, the Belgrave Music Hall, the Social and most recently Lab, with more operations on the way. The bottom of Merrion Street has recently beenpedestrianized, further enhancing the bar circuit in this part of town.
The other big benefit to Leeds city centre was the opening in 2013 of the Trinity shopping centre with the entire top floor given over to restaurants. A number of bars have also opened units within the complex including the Botanist and the Alchemist, both of which have been ahuge success. This has helped to attract Meat Liquor who have recently opened a unit on the lower ground floor. A knock on effect of the Trinity Development has been other restaurants and bars opening in the immediate vicinity of the shopping, such examples are Byron Burger and Roxy Ballroom, again demonstrating the good mix between chain and local operators. The new Eastgate development should see yet more space given over to licensed premises for both bar and restaurant use.
Outside the city centre a number of suburban circuits have developed, particularly in the affluent areas north of the city centre. The development of these local circuits has been steady and ongoing for over 10 years now, with these areas still remaining popular with drinkers anddiners of all ages. Such circuits include the likes of Chaple Allerton, which features an eclectic mix of independently run bars, and Horsforth which for a long time has had a circuit of its own but has seen a shift from the traditional pub to more modern fashionable bars.
The last 10 years has seen the emergence of a number of independent multiple operatorswithin the city with innovative creative design often setting the pace of change. These include the likes of Arc Inspirations (8 in the city, more on the way), Jones Bar Group (9 sites), North Bar Group (6 sites), Leeds Brewery (5 sites) with others emerging and looking to grow all the time.
Leeds has a strong heritage of brewing, previously being the home of the Tetley's Brewery. Brewing is now on the up again in the city with the afore mentioned, Leeds Brewery, and others springing up including the likes of Kirkstall Brewery and the nearby Ossett Brewery all opening and operating units within the city.
Hit the North
Pretty much all tastes and styles of cuisine are catered for in Leeds, whether it be traditional pub food through to modern high level cuisine. As with the bars, there is a big mixture of both chain and independent unbranded restaurants within the city. The likes of Carluccio's, Piccolino, Jamie's Italian, Giraffe, Handmade Burger Company and YoSushi are already established and others are securing good quality space.
Another factor in the Leeds restaurant market and possibly unique to this part of the world is a number of regional chains specialising in Indian and Asian food.
These include the likes of Akbars, Jinnah, Aagrah, Chaophryah and Sukothai, all of which have a number of sites in and around the city centre and in some of the suburbs.
Long established independents includes the likes of the well renowned Bibi's and Sous le Nez. With the development of the licensed trade in the city there are an ever changing number of independents offering a wide variety of cuisine from around the globe.
The new Trinity complex has been a huge draw for operators and diners alike with the restaurant floor on the upper level and the Trinity Kitchen which offers a variety of different street foods being a resounding success. The Greek Street area has become increasingly restaurant led with a particular focus on office workers, due to its proximity to the business district.
Leisure & Night Clubs
In keeping with most large centres of population, Leeds has an ever changing night club scene. Despite the changes in the licensing laws there continues to be a vibrant night club market. Many clubs have existed in the city since the 1960's and have evolved to cater for the changing tastes of each generation. This has incorporated the DJ lead dance market boom of the 90's, the super clubs of the 2000's through to todays trend for more student and live music venues.
Leeds' most well known club of recent times was the Majestyk Club on City Square close to the railway station. The grade 2 listed building started life in 1921 as a cinema and subsequently became a dance hall, then a bingo hall before becoming a nightclub in 1996. Following closure it was acquired by a local developer who undertook a major redevelopment and was on the verge of agreeing terms with a live music operator. These plans were sadly put on hold recently as a result of a ma jor fire that destroyed most of the roof.
Other well known large scale clubs in the city include the ever popular Mission, located in 5 railway arches, and the likes of the Luminar site in the Northern quarter of the city that has recently been refurbished and re branded as Pryzm. Halo is another well established venue close to the university within a former Church and was recently acquired by Tokyo Industries. The former Town and Country club evolved into a nightclub before reverting back to live musicin the form of the O2 Academy, which plays host to a variety of different bands and club nights.
In the last 10 years Leeds has gone from having a lack of music venues to being able to cater for groups and events of all sizes. The Cockpit was one of Leeds most long established venues showcasing up and coming bands. The venue recently closed after 20 years, however the operating team have opened a similar venue at the Key Club in the up and coming Merrion Street area of the City.
Larger and more established acts are now catered for at the O2 Academy and the new Leeds First Direct Arena. The Arena opened in Summer 2013 and has played host to a variety of well known acts and shows including Bruce Springsteen, Sir Elton John, Disney on Ice and Strictly Come Dancing. The arena is unique in that its 13,500 seats are accommodated in a fan shape, the first in the UK.