Preston’s restaurant quarter ‘mothballed’ with no date for work to start
Written by Skywave Radio News on June 28, 2020
A major revamp to one of Preston’s main shopping centres has been put on hold, with one restaurant already confirming it will no longer be opening.
The St George’s Shopping Centre is looking to create a ‘restaurant quarter’ around its Friargate entrance as part of plans to attract more of the city’s residents, particularly those studying at the University of Central Lancashire.
Attractive illustrations were released showing what the centre could look like, with national food and drink chains The Botanist and Mowgli Street Food both confirmed as future tenants.
But on Thursday last week (June 25), Mowgli founder Nisha Katona MBE announced it would no longer be coming to the city.
Mowgli has already signed to a 15-year lease in a 3,400 sq ft unit, with it remaining unclear if the restaurant will return at some point or if an agreement has been found.
Ms Katona, a former barrister working in Preston, cited company-wide rental costs behind the move, though said she hopes the dream of a Preston restaurant will come to fruition.
In a Facebook post, she said the business can only achieve its objectives “if our rents do not haemorrhage our ability to share any success generously and fairly”.
The statement added that the overall Friargate project was now “mothballed”.
They cited that the centre was prioritising the “health, safety and well-being” of visitors and staff – but added that the restaurant quarter plans remains an “exciting opportunity”.
No date on the project restarting has been given at this stage.
They said: “Due to the impact of COVID-19, the works to the new bars and restaurants on Friargate have been temporarily paused.
“The health, safety and well-being of our visitors and employees remains our priority.”
The spokesperson added: “We still consider the Friargate Restaurant Quarter to be an exciting opportunity to build on Preston’s existing leisure offer.
“We would like to thank all of our visitors and tenants for your continued support and patience and following the full reopening of St George’s last week, we look forward to seeing you soon.”
Preston BID expressed its ‘disappointment’ at “exciting brands” rethinking its plans to come to Preston.
A spokesperson said: “We are disappointed to learn that exciting brands due to locate in Preston may have had to temporarily re-evaluate their plans.
“There is no doubt that the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on businesses and they are understandably consolidating before investing in new sites.
“We hope that the economy recovers as soon as possible in order that we can look forward to welcoming further investment in Preston’s leisure scene.”
LancsLive has approached The Botanist for comment regarding the future of its site within the St George’s Shopping Centre.
The mothballing of the shopping centre’s scheme will come as a blow to the city centre, which has spent many years recovering after the Tithebarn scheme was scrapped.
In 2011, the £700 million regeneration scheme for Preston city centre was abandoned after John Lewis pulled out of the project.
The then-leader of Preston City Council, the late Peter Rankin, said: “We are in the middle of one of the worst economic and financial situations since the 1930s and it is now clear that the large-scale comprehensive Tithebarn scheme, that received planning permission as originally proposed, is financially unviable.
“The world has simply changed and we have to move on and be realistic about what can be achieved.”