by Lesley Draper
Popular Latino bar Cubana is to be reborn as the flagship unit in city-centre Leopold Square.
After more than a decade on Trippet Lane, Cubana is moving 200m up the road into two-floor premises recently vacated by Platillos.
The move will more than double capacity of the bar and restaurant and also maintain a key independent presence in the Square, home a range of major chains.
“The Square needs us as much as we’re happy to be going in. Having the biggest unit empty isn’t good for business,” says co-owner Adrian Bagnoli, who has given up his civil service job to devote more time to the challenge.
“It’s very exciting. The Cubana brand has been in Sheffield for 14 years, but this is our opportunity to open it up to a wider audience. If we don’t do it now, we’ll always wonder ‘what if?’”
The modern unit, created in 2007 as part of the £20m redevelopment of the former Sheffield Boys School, is a world away from the bar’s current home.
But the ethos and the feel will remain the same, promise Adrian and business partner Brad Charlesworth, who are busy transforming the open plan space into an intimate Havana street scene.
Many of the rustic artefacts and furnishings that have become synonymous with Cubana will be going with them – including tables, chairs, pictures and also the colourful mural formed a distinctive backdrop.
Artist Paul Staveley has recreated part of the scene on the upper floor, giving it the appearance of having been ripped from its original home and pasted up in the new one.
“The main thing for me is to keep the Cubana feel… not just the looks and the tasty food, but the ambience we create, the warm welcome from staff, the live music and the dancing,” says Adrian.
“We offer the full package and there aren’t many venues that do that.”
The new Cubana – designed by Paul Brady who created the original – will have a ‘faded grandeur’ theme and also make use of external space in the Square, with its water feature and solid bronze benches.
Additional staff, including two new chefs, are being taken on to meet demand and the bar’s programme of events will be expanded to include Platillos’ popular Sunday salsa night, new tango classes and plans for a piano bar.
The new Cubana is due to open on July 18, if all goes according to plan, in time for Tramlines. Other special events lined up include Salsa in the Square for August Bank Holiday.
Regular visitors the legendary Buena Vista Social Club have not yet been told of the move, but Adrian is confident of their approval.