BOLTON-born chef and restaurateur Paul Heathcote will not be reopening The Northern, which launched in the Albert Halls just six months before the pandemic struck.

Paul said the sad decision was taken following the devastating impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on the hospitality industry.

But Bolton Council say they are still committed to opening a restaurant within the iconic building.

The Northern had only just opened its doors before it was forced to shut them again as part of the first lockdown.

Staff were made redundant in the July and it had been hoped the restaurant could be mothballed and reopened once lockdown restrictions were lifted, but continued uncertainty means that 'tough' decisions have to be made.

As part of the closure, a 10 year-contract agreed between Bolton Council and Heathcotes in 2018 has also been terminated, with the agreement of both parties

Heathcotes,took on the catering and bar services contract with the council before the Covid-19 pandemic hit - and opened the Northern restaurant in summer 2019.

The Northerns official opening

The Northern's official opening

Due to the continuing restrictions and uncertain future of the hospitality and events industry, all Heathcotes catering staff were made redundant in July last year.

Paul Heathcote said: “Like many in our industry it will be17 months without any sales and very little support before we could open fully in an indoor arena. We have sadly decided therefore that we should find a mutually acceptable departure.

“No one could have foreseen the difficulties that the pandemic has created in hospitality.

“I would like to thank everyone for their efforts and contributions in coming to this difficult decision and wish Albert Halls the best of success with its re-opening.”

Whereas other restaurants were able to provide takeaway service, that income stream was closed to The Northern because of the nature of the building.

He added: "I guess you come to terms with it as you have done with everything else we have had to rationalise parts of our business like everyone else has is in hospitality so over a period of time you just accept that somethings you have to deal with and make the tough decisions."

DINING: Paul Heathcote Paul Heathcote (left) welcomes the Mayor of Bolton, Cllr Hilary Fairclough; the Mayor?s Consort, Don Fairclough, and the Leader of the Council, Cllr David Greenhalgh to The Northern

DINING: Paul Heathcote Paul Heathcote (left) welcomes the Mayor of Bolton, Cllr Hilary Fairclough; the Mayor?s Consort, Don Fairclough, and the Leader of the Council, Cllr David Greenhalgh to The Northern

A council spokesperson said: "It's with great regret that the council and Heathcotes have mutually agreed to terminate this contract early. When the contract was signed, just over two years ago, we had high hopes for the food and drink offering at Albert Halls and it was a big moment when Paul opened the Northern Restaurant in 2019 during the Bolton Food and Drink festival.

"Sadly, we were only able to enjoy the wonderful food at the Northern for a short period before the lockdown forced its closure.

"The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on hospitality and events businesses has been severe and we are sorry that Paul has concluded that Heathcotes won't be in a position to pick up where they left off when this lockdown ends. We understand Paul's decision and wish him well for the future. This is very much an amicable parting of the ways.

"Based on the government's roadmap announcement we are anticipating that indoor hospitality, events and entertainment will be able to reopen again by the summer. In order to be ready for this, interim catering arrangements will need to be agreed whilst the council works to identify a longer-term business partner who is willing to make a go of the catering contract and that includes a new restaurant offer to replace the Northern.

“The Albert Halls has great potential, and when we are able to see live theatre audiences return, we're hopeful a high quality catering offer will be a key part of that."

In its recently agreed budget proposals for 2021-2022, Bolton Council has committed to retaining the Albert Halls as a live venue.