Leighton Buzzard's The Dine Yard set to reopen after enforced Covid closure as staff thank community for 'overwhelming' support

'It has to be safety first for the staff and public. They say good things come to those who wait.'

Thursday, 1st July 2021, 10:48 am
Updated Thursday, 1st July 2021, 11:16 am

A Leighton Buzzard restaurant is reopening tomorrow (July 2) following closure due to Covid-19 and has thanked the community for its "overwhelming" support and well wishes.

Owner James Pratt made the difficult decision last weekend to shut The Dine Yard for a few days after he was left with a skeleton workforce due to staff - including himself - testing positive.

But thanks to the community spirit in Leighton Buzzard, the team are still smiling and in high spirits for Friday when the diner will reopen at midday.

The Dine Yard team. (James pictured third from left). Credit: Freckles Creative.
The Dine Yard team. (James pictured third from left). Credit: Freckles Creative.

Speaking earlier this week, James, owner of The Dine Yard and Prattys Ltd, told the LBO: "The public have been absolutely amazing. People have been offering their services - one gentlemen does defumigating and he's going to come in free of charge on Thursday.

"The local MP Andrew Selous has reached out too and wants to help.

"It's been really overwhelming, and really nice to see how Leighton Buzzard has come together to help. We have had so many lovely messages - some people have said they haven't been yet, but that they'll be in to support us once we're back open."

On Wednesday afternoon (June 23), the team got wind that a recent visitor had come down with Covid-19, and staff were instructed to conduct daily lateral flow tests.

Tasty treats at The Dine Yard. Credit: Freckles Creative.

However, on Thursday one employee failed their test, so the restaurant was deep cleaned that evening and closed on Friday.

James said: "We were left with five members of staff from 44 that were negative and hadn't been in contact with someone who was infected.

"We tried to open on Saturday evening (June 26), but the demand was too high for the limited amount of staff. We struggled to fulfill orders to the standard we expect.

"But it has to be safety first for the staff and public. They say good things come to those who wait."

Have you been to The Dine Yard? Credit: Freckles Creative.

Indeed, a pandemic is no match for James, 34, and his partner Harriet Blower, 30, who launched the business during the third lockdown.

The determined couple opened The Dine Yard at the beginning of February for takeaways and opened the restaurant on May 28, encouraged by the statistic that food deliveries were up over 70 per cent since the Covid-19 crisis.

James said: "I've always had a passion for food, for barbecues, and a couple of years ago I launched a seasoning.

"During the beginning of the first lockdown it really took off and one seasoning became three, then became seven.

James Pratt. Photo: Freckles Creative.

"My dream was to open a restaurant, so I designed a menu to incorporate the seasonings and The Dine Yard was born."

At the American-style diner all food (bar the french fries) is freshly cooked daily and the restaurant has made quite a name for itself in the town.

The business has also created The Inferno Chilli Challenge - see if you can eat 12 super hot chicken wings in 15 minutes - followed by 10 minutes of no drink - to win a place on their wall of fame and an Inferno Chilli Challenge t-shirt.

James added: "The most someone's managed to eat is five!"

The couple live in Newton Leys with their two daughters, Sarah, four, and Bubba, three, who enjoy the diner's "milkshakes and ice cream".

Meanwhile, James himself was born and bred in Leighton Buzzard and plays for Leighton Buzzard Rugby Club and Leighton Buzzard Golf Club.

Customers enjoying sports at The Dine Yard. Photo: Freckles Creative.

He concluded: "Myself and Harriet would like to say a massive thank you to the staff for how well they have taken it on; they are part of the family.

"And to the people that have supported us - a massive thank you!"

The couple would also like to give a shout out to the rugby team, as well as Kenny Smith, Barbara William, and Graham Blower who helped them to get the diner ready for opening.

Prattys Original. Credit: Freckles Creative.