Sneak peak of Preston's newest nightspot as city evolves
Change is as inevitable as taxes and death.
But Preston’s leisure and retail sectors seems to be going through a particularly eventful time at the moment.
There are many exciting project in the pipeline – like the new Preston Markets project and the revamp of the Guild Hall. But at the same time the former BHS store in Fishergate is still empty one year on, and several well-loved restaurants like Tiggis, Spice of Bengal and King Karai closing down.
Most business leaders and politicians are aware that every town and city, like every business, has to move on. Anyone who stands still and expects the punters and visitors to keep on coming is playing a dangerous game.
Leader of Preston City Council, Coun Peter Rankin, said: “Preston is clearly changing. Over the last 12 months a number of new shops, bars and restaurants have opened across the city centre, while some of our more established venues continue to thrive.
“It is a shame to lose some old favourites, for a variety of reasons, but happily that is not the whole story. Prestonians are faced with more choices to eat, drink and socialise than ever before.
“It’s an exciting time for the city and we expect even more growth over the next few years once the new Markets Quarter is developed and the City Deal projects continue.”
Richard Simkin, operations chief at Preston Guild Hall, is well aware of the changing times.
That is why the new owners – headed by millionaire businessman Simon Rigby, are ploughing a fortune into reviving the Guild Hall to its former glory.
He said: “How people spend their leisure time and what they regard as leisure is constantly changing due to advances in technology, people’s level of disposable income and the variety of activities now on offer.
“In order to stay relevant, we try and put the customer at the centre of our businesses and have adapted to their changing needs by listening to their feedback and really looking at what we as customers ourselves have come to expect.
“Although our core purpose hasn’t changed, we’ve tried to enhance our offer overall from pre-paying for parking online to show and dine packages and VIP experiences. We’ve also added extra facilities such as more toilets, as the level of business and types of events has changed so dramatically from when we were first built and are currently refurbishing the box office too.”
But Preston’s once-famous BHS store, in a high-profile position on Fishergate, has still not attracted a new tenant despite being marketed by two agents.
The branch was one of the first BHS stores to close in July 2016 as the fashion, furniture and homeware chain went bust.
There has been several rumours of would-be tenants looking to move into Fishergate, but none have materialised.
Observers say the sky-high rent and rates will put off most interested parties.
Others say the building would have to be operated by at least two businesses.
Preston Business Improvement District manager Mark Whittle said: “The BHS site is a flagship on Preston’s high street, it would be a huge positive for the city centre to see that unit filled by a strong retail brand.”
Meanwhile, liquidators have confirmed that Preston’s much-loved Tiggis Restaurant will not be re-opening.
Reports that the closure of the popular Italian eatery in Guildhall Street would only be temporary have been shot down by accountants brought in to dissolve the company, with the loss of 18 jobs.
Beever and Struthers revealed in a statement that they had been “instructed by the director of La Marokina Limited, trading as Tiggis Preston, to assist him with placing the business into liquidation.”
Tiggis opened in Preston in 1978.
Recently a number of curry houses – including the Spice of Bengal, believed to be the city’s oldest Indian restaurant – have either shut down or changed hands.
But it is a sign that operators realise that tastes change - and the well-worn route to their door will not always be there.
A Lancashire couple about to embark on a business in the city centre feel they have found a gap in the market.
Alicia Hardicker and Richard Withington have moved into the former Bella Emilios on Friargate.
It has been split into two units with one shaping up as A Taste of Thailand, an eaterie bringing the best of authentic street food to the centre of Preston.
Alicia and Richard hope to open in the next few weeks.
She said it was their first experience of running an eaterie, and they felt their offering of Thai street food in a good location with many potential student customers would be a winner.
Alicia said: “Tastes change – street food is definitely coming in.
“We saw there was a gap in the market. We will be modern, casual and a bit different.
“We have read about recent closures in Preston.
“We will be new, funky and with a relaxing vibe. You won’t have to wear a posh shirt in our place. Hopefully we are in the right location and will be very popular with the student market.”
Meanwhile, the most ambitious project in Preston is rapidly gathering pace.
A brand new covered market hall is just the start of a major revamp of the city centre which will eventually see new restaurants and a cinema attracting more visitors day and night.