Police probe hospitality chief’s ‘illegal NYE party’ at four-star Harrogate hotel

An outspoken managing director of a hotel group who fed Nightingale Hospital staff and railed against lockdown is being investigated over claims he held a Covid rule-breaking New Year’s Eve party.

Simon Cotton, who is the boss of HRH Group, was said to have been at a party with ten other friends at the company’s four-star Yorkshire Hotel in Harrogate.

That day the area had been put into strict Tier 3 restrictions, which states hospitality venues have to close except for takeaway and delivery as well as hotels, except for work purposes and emergencies when people could not go to their homes.

The very night Mr Cotton, who denies the allegations, posted a video from outside the hotel saying ‘Thank you 2020’. 

Previously on December 30, Harrogate had been it a Tier 2 level, which allows hospitality venues to open as long as they serve substantial meals.

It was alleged at the NYE party the group ate at one table, did not do social distancing and bar staff served drinks into January 1.

North Yorkshire Police confirmed to MailOnline this morning it was investigating reports of the night.

Mr Cotton delivered 130 pizzas to staff who were building the Nightingale hospital in April

Mr Cotton delivered 130 pizzas to staff who were building the Nightingale hospital in April

A spokeswoman said: “North Yorkshire Police have received complaints about an alleged prohibited gathering at a hotel in Harrogate on New Year’s Eve.

‘Working together with Harrogate Borough Council, enquiries are ongoing to determine whether any offences have been committed under the Coronavirus regulations that were in place at the time.”

Reports of the get-together were reported by independent online news service The Stray Ferret.

Sources told them the party stayed in the hotel overnight and new staff were then brought in to serve the group breakfast on New Year’s Day.

They added that some of the workers did not want to work but felt unable to say no to the request.

One claimed he had told them Harrogate Borough Council had given him authorisation to hold the party.

The Yorkshire Hotel was the location for the alleged end-of-year party on December 31

The Yorkshire Hotel was the location for the alleged end-of-year party on December 31

What are the restrictions in Tier 3

This is a ‘very high’ alert level – the highest of the three-tier system – for areas with a very high or very rapidly rising level of infections, where tighter restrictions are in place.

What are the main restrictions in tier three? 

No household mixing indoors or outdoors, except in parks and public gardens All hospitality is closed, except for takeaways and deliveries All accommodation and entertainment venues are closed 

Can I see my friends or family indoors?

No, unless they are in the same household. The rules for this are the same in tier four.

Can I see my friends and family outdoors?

Yes, but not in private gardens. You can only socialise in groups of up to six people in other outdoor public spaces, including parks, beaches, countryside accessible to the public, a public garden, grounds of a heritage site or castle, or a sports facility.

Does the ‘rule of six’ apply in tier three?

Yes. It applies to when you meet people from other households in outdoor public spaces. You cannot mix with other households indoors or in private gardens.

 

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Mr Cotton is a high-profile local businessman and has spoken out over coronavirus restrictions impacting the hospitality sector.

In April he served pizzas to staff who built the NHS Nightingale Hospital, publicising it on his own Twitter feed and the website of The Fat Badger, a pub in the HRH Group.

It said: I’t is no ordinary Saturday lunchtime when you receive a call for 130 pizzas to be delivered to a building in Harrogate, but then these are no ordinary times.

‘The team at The Fat Badger were surprised to receive a hungry SOS call for pizzas from Team Nightingale building the new hospital, especially as we don’t usually sell pizzas!

‘However, we were more than happy to help fill some empty tummies, especially when they are our local key workers’ tummies.’

Then in November last year he spoke out on why lockdown was ‘wrong’, describing it as a move that ‘cost many livelihoods’.

He told the Harrogate Advertiser: “It is starting to feel inevitable that a third lockdown is on the cards and whilst hugely frustrating for everyone, especially in Harrogate where we feel the hard work that businesses have put in and the public have made, have shown through in the low Covid cases we have here, I guess we have to respect the national position and also accept that it’s only a matter of time before we see numbers rising on a local level, if only due to those travelling into our ‘Tier 2’ area from elsewhere, despite the rules and guidelines not to.

“What I would personally like to see now is the Government taking decisive and final action to give people hope that we are genuinely looking at the beginning of the end of this horrible situation we’ve been living with for nearly a year now. One of the biggest problems facing business owners and operators is the ever changing rules and regulations; this stop start situation is costing many their livelihoods and they don’t know what to do next for the best.’

Harrogate Borough Council said it does not authorise anything that would break the law.

Mr Cotton is said to have denied the allegations, but HRG Group has not responded to MailOnline and its phone lines were permanently engaged this morning. 

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