Chester’s restaurant revolution continues apace as the second phase of the city’s dining quarter now has approval.
Planning consent is in place for five new restaurants within Grosvenor Shopping Centre opposite the first phase of the Pepper Street dining quarter which features South American restaurant Las Iguanas, Opera Grill steak house, American-themed Coast to Coast and Mexican eaterie Chimichanga.
Computer generated pictures show images featuring names and logos which bear more than a passing resemblance to those of Jamie Oliver, Wagamama and Côte Brasserie but which are spelled differently. The actual potential operators are as yet unknown.
But the scheme must be progressing fast because licensing applications have just been lodged with Cheshire West and Chester Council that would allow the supply of alcohol, music and late night refreshment.
A marketing document promoting the scheme by shopping centre owners HIG Chester Property Sarl and Bride Hall Real Estate Partners says: “Pepper Street is already well established as Chester’s most popular dining quarter, home to a host of great quality restaurant and bar operators.
“The development site itself forms part of the Grosvenor Shopping Centre and sits directly opposite the brand new £8m redevelopment of the former Habitat building (phase1).”
It continues: “This next phase of development will create five new restaurant opportunities on the Pepper Street entrance of the Grosvenor Shopping Centre. All five units have been designed to accommodate a wide range of occupiers and range in size from 3,500 sq ft up to 7,250 sq ft. Four of the five units are arranged over ground and first floor, each having their own terrace overlooking Pepper Street.”
However, there are murmurings of discontent from small independent restaurant owners about allowing even more eating chains to locate in Chester with fears there is insufficient demand for everyone to survive. The Chronicle has been contacted anonymously by one restaurant owner who believes it is unfair on small businesses but that Chester also needs to encourage independents to provide a unique offer.
Chester MP Chris Matheson is also worried about the restaurant chain bandwagon.
He told The Chronicle previously: “We can’t chuck all our eggs in one basket or the basket will break. I like to support small independent businessmen and women who have had the courage to set them up. Hopefully they will benefit when the new theatre opens and the cinema as well.”
Mr Matheson added: “National planning policy needs to be changed so that councils can take account of an overbalance of one type to try and bring balance back to the local economy but the problem is that’s considered to be anti-competitive.”
But the shopping centre owners argue the restaurant market must be pursued because the Chester retail environment continues to be challenging as evidenced by what were vacant retail units on the north side of Pepper Street.