An upmarket Italian restaurant chain has been lined up for a £14m new hotel planned for Blackpool.
Town hall chiefs hope a branch of Marco’s New York Italian, a franchise operated by celebrity chef Marco Pierre White, will open as part of the scheme proposed for the Talbot Gateway Central Business District.
Blackpool Council, which will borrow £11.3m to build the 130-bedroom hotel, has also now formally chosen Holiday Inn as the brand for the hotel.
But contracts are yet to be signed and a planning application by the council’s development partner Muse is not expected for several more weeks.
Blackpool Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn said: “It is beyond doubt that bringing in tried and tested, internationally successful brands to Blackpool will be a key catalyst for creating real change, forcing all businesses to up their game and compete in today’s competitive marketplace.
“We are very much still in the negotiation stages with potential operators which we expect to take some time. What I am clear about is that we won’t settle for second best.”
Coun Tony Williams, leader of the Tory opposition on Blackpool Council, has criticised ploughing council cash into the scheme.
He said: “The integral restaurant is part of the Marco Pierre White chain and a simple steak and chips costs around £20, not exactly in the price range for most local residents.
“I believe there should be an independent inquiry into the viability of this project.
“The council has no right to pledge or gamble with Blackpool tax payers’ money. I also think the final decision should be made after the next local elections as I am sure no other party will support this crazy idea.
“I will be contacting the Communities Minister to ask for his advice and guidance in regard to a full audit of this project.”
But Coun Blackburn hit back saying investment was vital.
He added: “Blackpool Council has had its funding cut by £68m in the past five years and the Conservative Government want to cut it by another £58m over the next few years.
“That means if we want a town with a decent economy, decent homes and decent jobs we need to invest now, to reap the rewards in future.
“Waiting around for the private sector to invest won’t work. We can borrow money cheaply, make development happen quickly, and reap the rewards in terms of rent and lease income in the future.
“Coun Williams knows this, but would prefer to bury his head in the sand, and play his usual game of supporting ideas in principle, but then coming up with spurious figures to justify his spurious objections.
“This is about us creating sustainable jobs in Blackpool, and protecting the council’s financial position. We have the vision to do that - he doesn’t.”
The council has now also granted drinks licences to Whitbread which wants to build a £10m 150-bedroom Premier Inn with a Beefeater restaurant on the site of the former Yates’s pub in Talbot Square.