WORK started this week on a new lease of life for the former National Union of Mineworkers’ headquarters in Sheffield city centre - with two restaurants on the immediate menu.
Terms have been agreed with two restaurant operators with a view to them taking ground floor premises with entrances off Holly Street, facing the side of the City Hall.
There is no movement yet over the initial plans to open a casino, although Brook Leisure says this remains an option.
The building, near Barkers Pool, has stood empty for more than 20 years, and was once earmarked for demolition to make way for offices for civil servants relocating from Moorfoot.
Barnsley-based Brook Leisure secured planning permission two years ago for a 24-hour casino, two restaurants and a rooftop bar. Now work is starting with the aim of opening the restaurants by August or September so that they can be trading in the run-up to next Christmas.
No names are being revealed until the deals have been wrapped up, but Matthew Stephens, development director of Quest Property, part of Brook Leisure, said: “They are high quality operators who are not in the city at present.”
There was “significant” interest from restaurant groups because of the great location, he said, and other restaurants could go in the refurbished complex. Interest had also been expressed in creating offices on upper floors, but there also remained the possibility of a casino.
The company acquired a casino licence for its then Kingdom nightclub at the other side of Barkers Pool, and was granted permission to transfer it to the old NUM HQ.
Since then, the Genting Group has opened its 24-hour casino in the city centre.
“It is still an option,” said Mr Stephens. “But the market isn’t as strong as the restaurant market. Our focus is to get the restaurants on the ground floor. And we have got other options now. There is strong interest from restaurant and leisure operators for the upper floors, and office interest as well.”
Although a casino is on hold, another part of the original scheme, a rooftop bar, is still anticipated.
The restaurants project is expected to cost a “few million pounds” with a spin-off of enlivening Holly Street as a pedestriansed route between Barkers Pool and West Street.
“We are making a start on stripping out the building, and we are looking at a six to eight month build programme,” added Mr Stephens.
The building opened in 1988 when Arthur Scargill and the NUM relocated its headquarters from London to Sheffield. But the head office moved to Barnsley when the mining industry declined, and Sheffield city centre was left with a prominent empty building that the council has been keen to see filled as soon as possible.
Brook Leisure is the largest independent late night operator in the country, and in Sheffield city centre, already runs Embrace nightclub, which replaced Kingdom, and Crystal, a bar in Carver Street.