Eager staff finally got back behind a Blackpool bar ravaged by fire as they showed off its £4m makeover ahead of tonight’s public re-opening.
Local businesses bosses and firefighters who helped tackle the blaze that left 13 people homeless were invited to a private bash at Walkabout, on Queen Street, yesterday to celebrate its relaunch.
A suspected electrical fire on June 19 damaged the bar and the upstairs accommodation for staff.
But yesterday, many of the same staff who stood outside watching their possessions go up in flames were back serving food and pulling pints.
Blackpool-born John Creighton, operations manager, said he was delighted to see the bar back in action again.
He added: “The fire service was great so we need to try to give something back.
“They are always here to put fires out but afterwards they seem to get forgotten about and we want to say thank you.”
Guests invited to sample food and view the bar ahead of tonight’s 9pm opening were impressed by the new design and menu.
Miss Blackpool Kendall Rae-Knight, 21, and Jade Slusarczyk, 29, who is the current Miss Poulton, were among the guests. Jade said: “It is lovely. The place looks a lot classier, more like a cocktail bar.”
And company bosses said the new look and focus on serving food was part of an attempt to attract a wider range of customers.
Mr Creighton added: “It has been so stressful, right from the morning of the fire, watching the pub burn down and the staff out on the street in nothing but their pyjamas, to rehousing the staff and getting it rebuilt.
“But it is just fantastic to see them all back.
“We are back to being an authentic Australian bar, with a general manager from Australia.
“I am most excited about the new balcony and the new aspirational look downstairs.”
Walkabout chief operating officer Simon Kaye also dropped in yesterday to get his first look at the revamped bar.
He said: “This is one of our flagship sites and obviously, when we lost it, it was a big blow.
“What is amazing is how a team has transformed a shell into what it is now in such a short space of time.
“I love the emphasis on food now – what we have done is make a bigger feature of the food area – and we are hoping to attract some diners.”