EXTRA workers will be based in the town centre in a bid to boost Bolton’s restaurant trade.
Town Hall chiefs have announced they are drafting more employees into the town centre.
Bolton Council chief executive Sean Harriss admitted one of the reasons staff were being moved into the Town Hall from other council buildings as part of its multi-million pound refurbishment was to encourage staff to make the most of central Bolton. He added: “There’s a lot of evidence that for a restaurant to operate it needs a day time market as well as a night time market. That’s why we are trying to put as many of our staff in the town centre as we can.
“We could have moved staff out to other buildings that we own but we’re trying to consolidate here and want staff to use the town centre. That’s one of the things we’re trying to do as a council.
“There’s a lot of evidence that just relying on retail to bring shoppers in isn’t enough. You need a critical mass of things around the town centre. We’ve got the Octagon which is very good, and the university and college nearby.”
The move comes as Bolton’s top police chief called for more to be done to attract families to the town centre to end its “unsafe image”.
Other council leaders have expressed their frustration at restaurateurs who visited the town for the popular annual Food and Drink Festival but have not “put their money where their mouth is” when they praised Bolton and did not set up shop in the town.
This year's festival attracted 102,000 people and was hailed “the best so far” with five celebrity TV chefs performing live demonstrations including Michael Caines, Mary Berry, Paul Hollywood, Jean-Christophe Novelli and James Martin.
Cllr Nick Peel, executive cabinet for environment, said: “We’ve got a thriving night-time economy but not for restaurants.
“It’s regrettable that we put the Food and Drink Festival on and everyone says how much they love it here, but they don’t put their money where their mouth is by bringing eating establishments to the town centre. What more can we do as a council?”
The council’s director of development and regeneration, Keith Davies, said: “There are some restaurants that are starting to be developed, there are one or two in Bradshawgate trying to make themselves more family friendly.”
But existing business owners say more needs to be done to improve infrastructure around the town centre — and that firms need to work together to make it a success.
Entrepreneur Steve Hoyle opened the Downtown steakhouse in the former Prosecco restaurant in Bradshawgate in October.
He said: “It sounds like a good idea. We’re always trying to see what kind of things we can do, we have music in the night and the restaurant in the day.
“Because of the way the economy is we all need to work with each other rather than against each other.”
Tasos Pattichis, owner of Olympus Fish and Chip Restaurant in Great Moor Street, added: “People who want to wine and dine won’t come into Bolton. They go to Manchester.
“There was a lot of money in Bolton brought in by the rich mill owners, the Town Hall and square are beautiful.
“But people are going to places like Middlebrook and in the town centre we’re just left with things like pound shops.
“People come to my restaurant from all over, they come from London and say how amazing the restaurant is, and I could have done a lot better for myself had I left Bolton but it’s my home.
“What the town really needs is infrastructure, including transport, and bringing things like cinemas here.
“At the moment it’s all fragmented and we’re putting the cart before the horse.”