Leicester Mercury

Reopening date for dinner-dance venue


LEICESTER’S Bistro Live dinner and dancing venue could reopen in a month’s time – and is already taking bookings for Christmas.

The popular Charles Street venue has been closed since the start of lockdown, but the owners are now putting plans together to get it back up and running.

Mark Henderson and Fred Harlow are staying positive about reopening, despite ongoing restrictio­ns which are pushing many venues to the wall.

They also have Bistro Live venues in Nottingham and Milton Keynes, and are pulling out the stops to give customers a chance for a Christmas celebratio­n – despite accusing the government of a chronic lack of support and clarity.

Bistro Live opened in Charles Street 20 years ago, offering three-course meals followed by live music and DJs. It has space for about 295 people.

It initially furloughed 35 fulltime and 90 part-time workers, but after seven months of lockdown hopes to reopen on November 6.

Capacity will be limited to half, and tables restricted to six people, while the food will become more central to the experience.

Assuming Covid restrictio­ns don’t worsen, evenings will start at 6.30pm and run through to the 10pm national curfew – as opposed to the traditiona­l closing time of 1am. The music will be more laid-back and they said there will be rigorous cleaning regimes in place, with small “bubbles” of staff to limit interactio­ns.

They also plan lunchtime sessions for the Christmas season, running from 12.30pm through to 3.30pm, and again featuring live music.

Under the new opening plans, they are expecting around 120 people a night and are already taking bookings.

Mr Henderson said: “Nearly all late-night venues have had zero income since March, and while the furlough scheme helped us, we are now having to use our reserves to pay our people and keep the business afloat.

“Since March, we’ve had to contend with constantly changing rules and regulation­s – full lockdown for four months, only two households, no live entertainm­ent and no dancing until the middle of September, the ‘rule of 6’ just recently, and to top it all off a 10pm curfew.

“And quite how the new Job Support Scheme – with companies paying a member of staff 55 per cent of their salary (with the government topping it up to 77 per cent) for doing 33 per cent of their normal hours – is going to help businesses recover is quite beyond me.

“We put November 6 in our diaries at the beginning of August after Boris had said everything will be back to normal for Christmas. So we said we would open up slowly and try and push the business. We had to get the sales offices and phone lines open, then unfortunat­ely things changed with the 10pm curfew and the rule of 6.

“We will certainly be open on November 6 in Nottingham and Milton Keynes, unless things change, and hopefully in Leicester too.

“We hope not to make people redundant. Furlough has been fantastic for us and kept us going, but the new scheme, I think, frankly, is a waste of time.”

Co-director Fred Harlow said: “We’ve been working really hard to come up with new ideas, to ensure we can operate in a safe but fun, social yet distanced way, and to get the venue ready for reopening.”

 ?? WILL JOHNSTON ?? FESTIVE FUN PLANNED: Bistro Live owners Fred Harlow and Mark Henderson
WILL JOHNSTON FESTIVE FUN PLANNED: Bistro Live owners Fred Harlow and Mark Henderson

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