“What people don’t realise is that we were five minutes from death.”
Those are the brutally honest words of Walkabout’s general manager on the first anniversary of a fire which ripped through the bar on Queen Street, devastating the venue.
Much of the interior had to be ripped out and rebuilt in a £3m refurbishment after the blaze, which 70 fire fighters battled in the early hours of June 19, 2013.
Manager Nick Kyriacou said: “We are all alive and kicking, and for that we are grateful.
“People don’t know how bad it was that night, but we’re all here now and that’s the main thing.”
The fire has been playing heavily on staff members’ minds this week.
They had to escape the burning building, where they also lived, which was ablaze because of an electrical fault in one of the bar’s illuminated outdoor signs.
With no work and no home, they sought temporary employment and accommodation until the new-look Walkabout opened some five months later.
Nick said: “The new bar has grown from the ashes of the old.
“We’re seeing more customers through the doors and our food sales are up 200 per cent.”
The staff celebrated their lucky escape with a round of drinks last night and will enjoy a trip to Stanley Park on Sunday.
Sales manager Lee Burns said the Walkabout workers had been talking about the fire over the last year.
He said: “It’s something we all still talk about, especially over the last few weeks with it being the first anniversary.
“It was very frightening for them – they could have lost their lives if they hadn’t have reacted as quickly as they did.
“It really could have been a lot worse than just the building being damaged.”
Lee said the new bar had given the Walkabout brand in Blackpool the chance to update its traditionally male values.
He said: “The company was moving in a different direction anyway, but we’ve been introducing measures to encourage more women into the venue.
“The new building was designed by a group of women who told us what they wanted from a local bar like ours.”
n A ladies’ night is being held in aid of Trinity Hospice on July 2.