By Mariam Ghaemi
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
FOOD and drink is the “future of the high street,” the chief executive of a business group has said, as he revealed Bury St Edmunds town centre now has more than 70 such businesses.
The East Anglian Daily Times can reveal Wildwood, which is a small restaurant chain, is set to open an Italian restaurant with an English twist at the former Thing-Me-Bobs store in Abbeygate Street.
This street at the heart of Bury town centre is becoming known for its eateries, with the Mexican Chimichanga a recent addition and Chinese buffet restaurant Real China set to open at the former Barclays bank building. A Thai restaurant is also on the cards for St John’s Street.
Mark Cordell, chief executive of town centre business improvement group Bid4Bury, said the town centre now had more than 70 places where you could eat and/or drink, adding almost 20% of the Bid’s firms were such businesses.
“I’m not surprised because that’s the way thriving town centres are going,” he said. “I know I joked, until you can pick up your laptop and pour a drink out of it you physically cannot go on the internet to buy food and drink.
“It’s that human interaction. Human beings are social animals – well, most of them – and we are finding even in the recession, when people might tighten their belts and not buy that pair of shoes or that outfit, they will still spend on a night out to make them feel good. I would say Bury is meeting that demand.
“There will be people who say ‘crikey, another restaurant, that’s not what we need,’ but why are they opening? You can only presume they have done some research and they feel it’s worthwhile. And I think it’s great.”
He added most people going to town for a meal would also do some shopping.
“The retail will still be the most important aspect of the town centre, but you need these other things to supplement it,” he said.
Clare McDonald, an interior architect and associate at Brown Studio, the agent for Wildwood, said market towns with history and culture appealed to their client.
She added: “We love interesting buildings. If it doesn’t have much interest we bring interest into it. It’s very nice to have listed buildings.”
A spokeswoman for St Edmundsbury Borough Council said it had received two applications from Wildwood for works to be carried out to the building, which is already covered by a permission for restaurant use.
Ms McDonald said the new restaurant, which is planned to open this year, would be like a “home away from home” with “cosy seating”.
Gordon Ellis, a director of Merrifields commercial property specialists in Bury, said the terms for a let on the former Thing-Me-Bobs unit had been agreed.