A FORMER restaurant and a once thriving bar could both re-open in 2020 ­— with estate agents hoping entrepreneurs will invest Bolton.

Property agents have placed a ‘for sale’ sign outside the former Pizza Express, in Wood Street, which has been empty since late 2017.

The 110-cover grade II listed restaurant had kept the original ambiance of the original Aspen House, which has seen service both as a bank and a college.

Pubs and restaurants specialists Fleurets have been commissioned to handle the sale, with offers being invited for the three-storey property, which is just yards away from the former home of Lord Leverhulme and a few doors down from Bolton Socialist Club.

Another attempt is also being made to revive the fortunes of The Flying Flute, in Bradshawgate.

The Bolton News: The Flying FluteThe Flying Flute

For £11,000 a year rent, would-be tenants have been told they could convert the building, formerly The Fleece Hotel, into a cafe, restaurant, shops, a beauty parlour or hairdressers.

Bolton Council leader David Greenhalgh said: “Bolton is open for business, and the potential for areas such as Bradshawgate which has seen huge decline over the last 10 to 20 years is enormous.

“Flawed decisions such as closing off the entrance to the Crompton Place destroyed footfall.

"Bolton lost valued independents. It is now time to reinvent Bradshawgate, working alongside experts, to increase the cultural, residential, commercial and leisure offer.

"Bradshawgate will be opened up to Victoria Square again with the demolition of Crompton Place, and I ask local investors and entrepreneurs to envisage the opportunities and work alongside a council who want you to thrive and will help you succeed.”

The Bolton News: The former Pizza ExpressThe former Pizza Express

More wholesale changes could also be coming for a slightly more modern addition to the town’s skyline, which was once a mecca for late-night entertainment.

Blueprints have been drafted on behalf of Shehzad Khan to convert the former Empress Hall, in Mealhouse Lane, into 10 one and two-bedroom apartments. Once host to balls and dinner dances, the venue was originally part of The Crown and Cushion.

A pub had been on the site since at least 1779, back when Mealhouse Lane itself was known as The Acres.

Former landlords included at least two ex-Bolton Wanderers favourites, with Bethel Robinson, who turned out for The Whites on the inaugural day of the Football League in 1888, and Great Lever born forward Albert Shepherd both having their name above the door at one time or another.

For decades it was a house tied to Tong’s brewery but by 1971 the ground floor had been converted to shops.

The Bolton News: The former Crown and CushionThe former Crown and Cushion

A short-lived sojourn for the first floor of Club Empress was ended abruptly by a major fire in 1976.

Ex-world snooker champion John Spencer took over shortly afterwards, creating Spencer’s Club and Bar, before he sold up in 1988 and the premises reverted to the original name.

Live music saw The Crown and Cushion enjoy a 90s revival, with The Charlatans, The Verve, Primal Scream, Frank Sidebottom and The Damned all gracing the stage. But that heyday fizzled out and the location was known for a time as Bar Retro, before closing in 2002.

Under the current proposals, five apartments apiece are pencilled in for the first and second floors, to be reached via a central staircase from street level.