TESCO is ready to set up shop on the site of one of Blackpool’s most famous old pubs.
The Gazette can today reveal the supermarket giant has “committed” to open a new store where the iconic Yates’s Wine Lodge once stood.
Yates’s was destroyed in a devastating blaze four years ago and it was hoped the Talbot Road site would be revived to its former glory with top restaurant chain TGI Fridays widely reported to be interested.
However, TGI’s today confirmed it would not be coming while Tesco Express is ready to take over one of the three units proposed as part of a new £3m redevelopment scheme.
The Tesco store will take the site of Yates’s famous rotunda – overlooking Talbot Square – with Asian eaterie Cosmo on the first floor.
Developers, the Manchester-based Northhold Group, today vowed to begin work “as soon as possible”.
However, some traders and community leaders said they were disappointed a food store was part of the scheme on such an historic site.
A spokesman for the Northhold Group said: “We are happy to confirm Cosmo Buffet Restaurants and Tesco Express are both committed to occupy space within the completed development and we are in the final stages of putting everything in place to make a start on site as soon as possible.
“The development represents a £3m investment in Blackpool and will complement the recent public realm improvements that have been made in and around Talbot Square.”
It is planned the two ground floor units will have mezzanine levels, while the upper floor will form the third unit, offering “expansive views for diners towards the Promenade.”
However, not everyone is convinced by the plans. Talbot ward councillor Coun Mark Smith said: “It’s a prime location and I don’t particularly want a food store there. I think there are other empty units in the town centre which would be better for that. I would like to see another restaurant coming in.
“We want something which will enhance the area and draw people in.”
Pauline Lai, who owns the Mandarin Restaurant and Rouge Burlesque Club, both on Clifton Street, said: “It’s a shame TGI Fridays is not coming because they would have strengthened the eating scene in Blackpool.
“I hope another big national chain comes in. I would rather there was something that was part of the evening economy than a food store.
“We desperately need something that will draw tourists off the Prom and up into this area. Having the site still boarded up is not helping at all.”
Ignazio Maniscilco, who runs Sapori restaurant on Clifton Street along with Vincenzo Papa, said: “I would have preferred something connected with food and drink rather than Tesco, but anything would be better than nothing.”
The historic Yates’s building was destroyed in a fire which caused £20m of damage and wrecked a number of businesses on February 15, 2009.
The redevelopment aims to create a landmark building with a 15m high Art-Deco inspired tower including a clock and curved balcony in place of the famed rotunda which featured on the former Yates’s building for 100 years.
Town centre business improvement district (BID) manager Eileen Ormand said the BID hoped another big name operator would take over the third unit.
She said: “We are trying to attract someone else to fill this space, but these are difficult times. The site is a crucial area.
“We hope building work will begin because if people see something happening, it’s easier to attract a tenant, and it will revitalise that part of the town.”
The Northhold spokesman added: “We believe this scheme will help with continued efforts to regenerate the resort and aid the continued revival of Blackpool as a cultural and holiday destination.
“The Tesco signage has been well thought out and will fit in with the conservation area status.”
A spokesman for Tesco said they hoped the store would open by the end of this year, or the start of next year.
He added: “We believe this will be an excellent location and we are looking forward to enabling our customers to be able to shop local.
“There will be about 20 jobs and we will work to ensure these jobs go to local people as far as possible.”
A spokeman for TGI Friday’s confirmed the chain had no plans to open in Blackpool.