Rising from the ashes - Blackpool's newest Premier Inn opens on former Yates' site
On Valentine’s Day back in 2009, firefighters from across the Fylde Coast descended onto Talbot Square in Blackpool’s town centre after Yates’ Wine Lodge became engulfed in flames.
The blaze severely damaged the three-storey building, which was 141 years old, causing it to be demolished and leaving a empty space where the fondly remembered gilt signage of Yates’ once stood.
More than 12 years after that dramatic evening in the resort, a new Premier Inn has opened on the former site close to North Pier.
The new building will be known as the Blackpool North Pier Premier Inn as well as having a Cookhouse and Pub restaurant on site.
The five-storey hotel also has impressive views overlooking the pier and the Irish Sea.
The opening of the new £7.1m hotel has been long-awaited, with dates being pushed back by various pandemic lockdowns.
Planning for the hotel was submitted in 2015 and construction at the site started in 2018.
It was close to opening in March last year, but when the pandemic struck this was pushed into Autumn but a local lockdown and subsequent national lockdown meant it could finally open on May 17, when restrictions were relaxed for hotels.
The addition of 150 hotel rooms has increased Premier Inns’ total rooms in Blackpool by 50 per cent to over 450, bringing more accommodation choice to visitors to the area.
The company said the task of opening a new Premier Inn hotel and restaurant was considerable in normal times, but under Covid-19 restrictions meant the task took longer as the team worked to open the hotel in a socially distanced and safe way.
A spokesman for Premier Inn said: “Blackpool North Premier Inn is one of five new Premier Inn hotels we are opening this summer in seaside locations as we grow our network in popular leisure locations across the UK.
“The hotel is in an excellent location for exploring everything Blackpool has to offer. Many of our family friendly bedrooms look directly onto the North Pier and all of Blackpool’s famous attractions are just a short walk away.
“The team in the Three Piers Cookhouse + Pub family restaurant are doing a great job of giving our restaurant customers the warm, relaxed welcome we are known for and we are expecting a busy summer ahead in the hotel.
“It’s a pleasure to be finally open on this historic site and we’re looking forward to becoming part of the community, serving great food and helping to promote Blackpool as a fantastic holiday and short-break destination.”
Prior to opening, owners Whitbread said it was keen on attracting Blackpool residents to working at the hotel, and particularly those out of education, employment or training, to join the team.
Now the hotel employs 42 staff with more planned for the future. And the future looks bright indeed.
The fire started in an alley between Clifton Street and Talbot Square on 15 February 2009.
The inferno is estimated to have cost £20 million, as well as robbing Blackpool of part of its heritage - and killing more than 100 animals.
Five other businesses, including a pet shop, were damaged in the blaze.
Ben Norman, the first fire officer at the scene after being paged at his home on the outskirts of the resort, told the Gazette in 2019 how the fire was found to have started modestly outside the famous building before rapidly developing into an inferno burning at close to 900 degrees Celcius.
No one has ever been held to account over the fire however a 21-year-old man, seen acting ‘suspiciously’ nearby, was arrested following the fire. He would later confess to police, only for forensic evidence to prove he couldn’t possibly have been involved.
Following the blaze destroying Yates’, the old building was torn down and in 2012, a TGI Fridays eatery and Asian restaurant Cosmo was proposed alongside a Tesco before those plans fell through.
Planning permission was secured in 2015 for a six storey building and in 2018 Barnfield Construction started on the Premier Inn.
The Talbot Road Arcade and Assembly Rooms opened in April, 1868, and was Blackpool’s first indoor entertainment and social centre, more familiarly known through the generations as the Theatre Royal, Yates’ Wine Lodge, the Tivoli Cinema, the Music Hall Tavern and Addison’s night spot.
The Gazette’s first history man, EJ Dromgoole, in his 1917 series called Fifty Years Ago, said the local recorder (an unclear title) called it “magnificent.”
He recalled the site was occupied by a doctor’s house before it was bought in 1867 and developed as the Arcade and Assembly Rooms.
The name may have been uninspiring but it housed “a basement and arcade of very elegant shops, a restaurant, refreshment and billiard rooms together with a handsome and spacious saloon, surrounded within by a gallery and fitted with a neat stage for theatrical representations and other entertainments.”
Many famous actors of the day appeared at the Theatre Royal, which was the name adopted for the handsome and spacious saloon when it was in theatre use in the short summer seasons.
Of the many famous names only one is now picked out to highlight the theatre’s stature. Oscar Wilde’s visit was for a one-night lecture called The House Beautiful and only 50 people attended.
The theatre big competition when the Winter Gardens Pavilion opened in 1878 and after a couple of years a new name took over the summer lease in June, 1881.
Gazette stage ads of 1881 show Thomas Sergenson as managing both the Theatre Royal and the Prince of Wales Theatre, on the promenade. It was Sergenson’s first step towards building the Grand Theatre in 1894.
A new chapter opened for the Talbot Square premises in 1896 when the block was sold at auction to the Yates brothers for £29,000. Up went the big gilt sign - Yates’s Wine Lodge - and the Theatre Royal became a fading memory.
Technology was on the march and brought a new use to the hall on the upper floor. The word Tivoli appeared for the first time in 1909 and survived until around when televisions became more common in households.