'We didn't see a future for our nightclub anymore': Owners of former Preston club Lofty's transform venue into new restaurant
The owners of what was once known as Lofty's nightclub says the businesses 'didn't have a future' due to the pandemic, as the husband-and-wife duo now gear up to open a new restaurant in its place.
When nightclubs were forced to close their doors over a year ago due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the uncertain future meant that Lofty's owners Andrew and Naomi Forster had to re-think their business plan.
What had once been their popular city-centre nightclub on Glovers Court was now shut, with bills and rent costs still continuing to put the business and the family under difficult strain.
And with the plans to first re-open as a restaurant thrown into disarray in December last year, before the third national lockdown was introduced, owners Andrew and Naomi hoped that the new year would bring new opportunities for the venue, which they have owned for 18 years.
Floriana's restaurant, which will specialise in serving British, Spanish and Mediterranean cuisine, is now gearing up to open for the first time this Friday, May 28, with the lockdown restrictions continuing to ease meaning diners can enjoy a meal inside the flowery new venue.
Owner Andrew, from Preston, said: "We were forced to close as a nightclub last year and didn't see a future for the venue, so decided to have a fresh start and put our restaurant background to some good use.
"When the pandemic hit, we weren't given any hints or news about when we would be able to reopen and there was just so much uncertainty. Night clubs were missed out on any guidance so we just didn't see a future for our business in Preston anymore.
"We knew we would be better off repurposing our venue to be able to survive. Big cities like Manchester and Liverpool are all transitioning into a cafe culture, where bars and clubs now open and serve food during the day and people finish their nights much earlier."
According to Andrew, it was the introduction of the 24-hour drink licensing that came into force in 2005 that made nightclubs first start feeling the strain, as they began competing with other bars and restaurants that had previously closed earlier.
And groups of people opting to start drinking at home to save money and head back much earlier, he believes is what started to send the nightlife industry into decline.
With financial difficulties being worsened due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Andrew and Naomi took the plunge and spent more than £60,000 fitting a new kitchen into what was once a busy nightclub, in a bid to repurpose themselves as a must-visit new restaurant.
And they have bagged an executive Portuguese chef to run the kitchen when they open this weekend.
Andrew added: "Businesses like ours have struggled to escape the financial difficulties during the pandemic. It has been bill after bill. It has been so awful, I couldn't tell you how much stress it has put us under emotionally and financially.
"We felt the pressures to open up and start earning money again, so have relied on all our families and friends to help us strip out what was previously here and give us a new fresh start.
"We have changed the look of the venue entirely and have fully decorated it to really high standards. We have been very careful with the little money we had to totally transform the place.
"It has been such a fantastic process and we have had a great time working with the team. We have hired high-end chefs who lost their jobs during the pandemic when hundreds of restaurants closed down, who have lots of experience.
"It has been a long and difficult process to get here, but we wanted to open up in time for the Bank Holiday Weekend and are excited to open our doors and welcome everybody in."
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