Popular venue Empire reopens to public after undergoing lockdown renovations
Date published: 04 July 2020
The former music hall theatre oozes class and sophistication whilst retaining its friendly atmosphere and a safe environment consistent with social distancing
One of Rochdale’s most historical town centre buildings, Empire reopened with a brand-new look on Saturday 4 July.
With no better time to upgrade than the lockdown period, Empire has undergone vital renovations after being affected by June’s flash flooding, resulting in a fresh aesthetic for the Packer Street venue.
A staple in the town centre, Empire has retained its renowned bar, specialising in luxury cocktails, as well as planning to introduce food service from 12noon until around 7pm whilst the pandemic is ongoing (start date to be confirmed).
New benches and lanterns grace the wings of the club, whilst a bar has been added to the indoor railings. The dancefloor has temporaily been transformed into a seated area for 60.
A statement entrance in the form of a newly-uncovered Rochdale coat of arms mosaic embedded into the floor greets patrons as the building is entered, a beautiful and unique preservation almost as old as Empire itself.
With a new colour palette, the former music hall theatre oozes class and sophistication whilst retaining its friendly atmosphere and a safe environment plus disabled access – all within two minutes’ walk of public transport systems.
Strict social distancing guidelines will be in place - in line with government guidelines - including a two-metre distancing policy, a one way system to tables or self-serve, a hand-sanitising station upon entry and either indoor or outdoor seating.
Paul Whitham, who runs Empire, said: "We want everyone to have a good time and enjoy the atmosphere. Unfortunately there will be no live entertainment until the government says we can, but we will still be playing music and providing a safe social place for everyone.
"We all have to ease into this as we have to keep both staff and customers safe. We want it to feel like home and we're all in this together."
The gents’ bathroom has been relocated so it is adjacent to the ladies’, and both have benefitted from being completely refitted with new conveniences, as has the neighbouring accessible bathroom. Toilets will be cleaned every 15 minutes, and all surfaces will be regularly sanitised.
Empire specialises in also being one of Rochdale’s biggest party event venues with the capacity to accommodate for up to 600 guests, as well as providing VIP areas – ensuring you can still have a night to remember, even with social distancing guidelines in place. The venue will operate at around a quarter of its usual capacity to allow for distancing and all staff have received appropriate PPE.
Customers will be required to check in at a new front desk, leaving details for the NHS track and trace service.
Paul added: "We need the support of our clientele. We're looking forward to opening, and hope our regulars will be back to support us as we all follow the government rules. So many people have worked hard to help get Empire ready for reopening, and we want everyone to enjoy visiting."
Such is the growing popularity of Packer Street’s oldest music venue that music lovers far and wide have frequented the former music hall over the years.
Built in 1904, Empire was even home to the first ever performance by Rochdale’s beloved daughter, Gracie Fields, who graced the stage at the tender age of 11.
There will be no entry fees until live music returns.
Contact: Empire Rochdale
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