BAR staff were ready to admonish a cheeky customer for banging on the door ten minutes before opening time yesterday lunchtime.

But annoyance turned to shock when it turned out that the man hoping for an early bite to eat was former American president Bill Clinton.

In Harrogate to give a speech at the Yorkshire International Business Convention at the Great Yorkshire Show Ground, Mr Clinton found himself with a little time to kill.

His motorcade left Leeds Bradford airport for a short sight-seeing trip around the local countryside.

Then Mr Clinton surprised shoppers by abandoning his transport to walk through Harrogate's streets, calling first at the Old Bell Tavern on Royal Parade for a spot of lunch.

"It was a surprise for the staff who opened the door," said barmaid Jody Wilford.

"Security guards checked the whole building first and then Mr Clinton walked in and took one of the downstairs tables with a group of other Americans who had been in the day before."

Mr Clinton enjoyed steak and ale pie, but was refused a Snake Bite as the pub has a policy not to serve the drink, a strong mix of lager and cider.

However, he still left a £6 tip after a relaxed meal among other customers - who first had to satisfy the security team that they did not pose a threat.

Afterwards, Mr Clinton took a gentle stroll to the Harrogate Antique Centre, once more surprising staff with his arrival.

"He stayed about three quarters of an hour and seemed very relaxed and happy to chat. He bought jewellery and silver," said owner Pauline Stephenson, who declined to reveal how much he spent.

"We have had royalty and celebrities visit before, but never an American president" she said.

Mr Clinton used his speech at the showground to urge the region's business leaders to support the responsible development of world globalisation.

He highlighted the gap between rich and poor nations, and said it could grow if there was no cooperation between the world's leading economies. Countries needed to recognise the threat posed particularly by global warming and the spread of Aids, he said.

Last night, Mr Clinton was due to speak at a £100-a-ticket ball at Hareworth House near Harrogate.