Tycoon's first throw of the dice on Preston casino project
Simon Rigby thinks Preston is getting a raw deal not having a casino.
So the wealthy businessman wants to bring one to the Guild Hall and make it the “crowning glory” of the entertainment package on offer there.
The boss of the Villa empire made his opening gambit this week by buying the former city centre nightspot Fives.
He is now hoping to transfer the building’s planning permission for a casino to the Guild Hall before starting the process of winning a licence.
“Preston ought to have a casino licence, there’s no doubt about that,” said Simon who intends to bring in a London bar/restaurant operator to re-open Fives, hopefully before Christmas. “A casino is part and parcel of being a city. Why should places like Blackpool have four or five, while a city like Preston has none at all?”
Simon bought the 138-year-old Grade II Listed building – ironically in Guildhall Street – from Preston Plastics director Edgar Wallace.
The former Preston Conservative Club closed its doors as a nightspot in 2011, although the basement is still operating under lease as the Chinese restaurant Face.
Simon said: “Edgar is four to five years ahead of us in trying to get a Gaming Board licence. He has done the first part of the heavy lifting by getting planning permission from the council in 2014 for Fives to have a casino.
“Rather than the Guild Hall apply as well and then compete with Fives, Edgar and I have agreed to work together for the good of Preston.
“I truly believe that a casino would be the crowning glory for the Guild Hall as a truly multi-leisure facility.”
Simon is delighted to net his latest acquisition, following on from the Guild Hall and the Guild Tower office block.
He said: “It’s absolutely magnificent. One of the top five nicest buildings in Preston. The thing is it is in great condition. Even though it has been closed for five years it has been really well looked after.
“People who want to see Preston pull itself up by its boot straps should be happy to see Fives opening again and having a sensible local owner.”
Edgar Wallace said: “I’ve been proud to own Fives and I’m pleased that she is going to another local businessman who will look after her. Obtaining a gaming licence is very hard. But if anyone can do it, Simon and his team can.”
The Fives building was built in 1878 to cater for an exclusive group of “gentlemen and middle class” Conservatives, who preferred not to socialise with working class Tories.