Two businessmen are investing £1 million to open an Italian restaurant and a gastro pub which will create around 30 new jobs in Wrexham.
Brothers-in-law John Blaney and Carl Burleigh are breathing new life into the former Barclays Bank premises in High Street that’s lain empty for 10 years.
Both men have many years’ experience in the food and drinks industry and say the two new eateries, Belushimo and the Frisky Pudding, will herald the creation of a new café quarter in the town when they open later this month.
The development spans two buildings next door to each other which were also used by Barclays as their regional HQ until they relocated to another part of the town a decade ago.
They are also aiming to submit a planning application to convert the upper floors into 23 apartments.
John, 53, and Carl, 49, both from the Wirral, say their venture fits in perfectly with Wrexham County Borough Council’s strategic plan to regenerate the town centre.
In renovating the 12,000 sq ft property, they have kept as many of the original features as possible – including the centuries old oak beams and the more recent bank vault, complete with a steel safe door that’s a foot thick, which will be available for private parties.
At the rear of the Italian restaurant, there will be a gin and prosecco bar and the two restaurants will be open for teas and coffees during the day.
John has been involved in construction and property development all his working life as part of the family firm, Clydesdale Project Management Ltd.
Nine years ago he restored a 17th century building and opened an acclaimed gastro pub, the White Bear in Middlewich, in Cheshire, which he has sold to fund the investment in Wrexham.
He explained: “I wanted to go into business with my brother in law, Carl, who has run bars and restaurants all his life.
“We chose Wrexham because the town centre has so much potential and that we had something different to offer.
“There are lots of people in Wrexham who go for nights out to Chester and our aim is to persuade them to stay closer to home.
“The building was big enough to enable us to run two different offerings and having the two operations side by side will allow customers to have a choice.
“Belushimo will be more formal with table service while the Frisky Pudding will be more relaxed.
“It will serve classic Italian dishes, with the finest seasonal ingredients sourced from local Welsh suppliers. We aim to give our patrons an amazing dining experience, with meals full of delicious Italian flavours
“The reason we wanted to do an Italian offering is because of families, because children love Italian food, they love pizza and pasta and Italian ice cream. So it’s very easy to come as a family.
“Next door the Frisky Pudding will be a traditional foodie pub which will feature wonderful local produce from the farms and hillsides surrounding Wrexham.
“The Old Barclays Vault will offer our guests the opportunity to enjoy dinner within the original bank vault.
“Groups of up to 24 people can hire this luxury private dining room for parties and special events and the vault will also allow our chef to run a fine dining menu on select evenings.
“If we get planning permission, we’re going to have 23 apartments upstairs which fits in with Wrexham Council’s vision for this part of the town with the aim of stimulating the night-time economy.
“The council’s local plan for the town centre sees High Street as a café quarter with residential options for people to live in the town centre above the commercial properties.”
Carl’s long and successful track record in the licensed trade included a stint managing the legendary Liverpool nightclub, Cream, which grew out of a weekly house music night, and he went on to become the licensee of the Creamfields music festival and helped increase the audience to 59,000 people.
He said: “This has been a long project. Originally the site was bought 15 months but we’re nearing the exciting bit now and we’re taking on staff. We’ve already got our chef and our house managers in place and we’re looking at another 20 or so jobs.
“We’ve used local suppliers and contractors and we’ve had some great service from the joiners, the plumbers and the electricians we’ve employed.
“I think we’ve come along at the right time because it fits in with the vision for the town centre and will provide a real shot in the arm for the local economy.”