A Kirkham restaurant owner has invested in the city’s future by opening a new local restaurant.
Restaurateur Andrew Booker and his son James have opened The Old Bank gourmet establishment on Poulton Street.
They transformed the former premises of the Midland / HSBC bank into a 44-seat restaurant serving British cuisine, all created from local ingredients.
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The old bank has been buzzing about ever since a griffin sculpture appeared above the premises door during the lockdown.
Inspired in part by the old Midland Bank logo, Archie, affectionately nicknamed after being created by the blacksmiths of Archforge, has become a famous local landmark.
Andrew and James started the Tap and Vent Brewery on Poulton Street three years ago. Their creation of the Old Bank, which houses a kitchen housed in the old bank vault, took place during the lockdown.
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James and Andrew believe there is a bright future for Kirkham. The city is at the center of a £ 10million regeneration master plan with funding from Historic England and the Future High Streets Fund.
Andrew said, “Our plans for the restaurant were in place before the pandemic. We identified that Kirkham was calling for restaurants outside.
“We have always believed that a high quality restaurant would be well received, and it was great to finally welcome customers, whether they are visitors to the area or locals. The returns since our opening are satisfactory.
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Kirkham has received £ 6.3million from the Future High Street Fund (FHSF) – the only town in Lancashire to receive funding. It followed on from £ 3.6million secured through the city’s successful bid to become one of Historic England’s Main Street Heritage Action Zones (HS HAZ).
With the funding, historic buildings are transformed, with a range of new uses planned. Significant improvements will help the public realm, with opportunities to help existing businesses bounce back and thrive after the pandemic, by encouraging new ones to open on Main Street.
The Old Bank is already becoming a popular new addition to Main Street. Alongside Archie, there are also works of art created by local artist Jo Catlow-Morris, as well as images tracing the history of Kirkham.
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Kirkham can trace its roots back before it was a Roman garrison. Its development came in the days of cotton and the manufacture of sailcloth for the Royal Navy.
Andrew, who previously ran the Hastings Restaurant in Lytham and started Lytham Brewery with James, said: “I think it’s an exciting time for Kirkham – here’s a real feeling the town is booming.
“We have a few empty stores, but not as many as other similar towns, and I think Kirkham is up and up. We need to create a culture where people choose not to go out of town to eat but to stop in their hometown. I think this is changing for the better.
“Now is the perfect time to invest in the city. The cost of ownership is much lower than in other areas of the Fylde Coast. It is an excellent location with good transport links and great potential.
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Like many towns of its size, its historic Main Street has had a rough time, but is home to new stores and businesses, such as Bull Horns Smokehouse, another new restaurant on Poulton Street.
James added: “When we first opened Tap and Vent, the first comments we got was that it would never work in Kirkham – there are enough pubs.
“We only stocked high-end products, and it worked – we created something new for the city. We had a lot of people visiting us who had never been out for drinks in Kirkham. With all the new homes being built, there is a real untapped market. Kirkham now has many different options of where to go, and it’s great for everyone. “
Andrew and James managed the construction of The Old Bank themselves, aided by a £ 10,000 grant from Fylde Council’s ARG Vacant Premises Grant.
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Andrew said: “If we can look after each other it creates a great future for the city.
“For example, during construction, we used hardware stores from Grundy and Peter Miller Plumbing and Heating – our immediate neighbors – as well as Red Rose Carpets, which are also on Poulton Street. The more we could source locally, the better. It was really important to us.
“For those who don’t know, it used to be the Midland Bank. We felt it was appropriate that we had something that reflects the past and the future. The griffin was handcrafted by Archforge in Kirkham as a bespoke piece.
“We wanted to create a talking point, and we think we made it with Archie!”
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