Seafront Empire re-opening as music and street food venue

The Empire Great Yarmouth seafront

The Empire on Great Yarmouth's Golden Mile is set to re-open this summer, 2021, its owners have announced. - Credit: Jays UK

One of Great Yarmouth's architectural gems is set to enjoy a new lease of life when it re-opens this summer.

The Empire has been closed since 2008 but is set to regain its place as one of the town's top entertainment venues.

Under plans being brought forward by its owners the 120-year-old former cinema will be a hub for street food, bars, artisan coffee, and live music hoping to ride a staycation surge.

Zen Nightclub Great Yarmouth

Zen Nightclub in Great Yarmouth in 2005. - Credit: Archant

Company director Ben Jay said: "There won’t be anything quite like this anywhere else in the country, where a historic entertainment venue can be enjoyed in such a new and exciting way.

"This is such an exciting addition to the already vibrant Great Yarmouth seafront.


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"And offers something very different from other brilliant restaurants and bars."

Zen Nightclub Great Yarmouth

Zen Nightclub in Great Yarmouth in 2005. - Credit: Archant

Mr Jay said, unlike the multi-bar Bourbon Street and later Zen nightclub, it would more likely be a day/evening attraction with a more relaxed vibe.

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"We have been wanting to open it for quite a long time," he said.

"Our focus has always been on the Hippodrome but lockdown has given us more time to look at other projects.

"We feel there is a gap in the market and a chance to help some smaller operators that have been doing some great things during lockdown.

"We are looking forward to it, but very apprehensive. We are putting a lot on the line."

Owner Peter Jay said he was thrilled the prominent building was re-opening.

The Empire Cinema in Great Yarmouth. Photo: Archant Library

The Empire Cinema in Great Yarmouth. Photo: Archant Library - Credit: Archant Library

He said: “We’ve been working really hard on getting this amazing venue open again and feel the time is finally right.

"It’s looking absolutely incredible inside and we will be giving people a chance to enjoy the unreal majesty of this theatre's interior like never before. "

Mr Jay said he was especially keen to provide a platform for new musical talent.

Jack Jay said he was excited about being at the hub of the Norfolk food industry.

Millennium eve at Bourbon Street

Celebrations marking the millennium at Bourbon Street. - Credit: Nick Butcher

“I’ve been passionate about the amazing food and drink scene we have growing right here in Norfolk and this is a chance to showcase it in the most amazing of spaces," he said.

"It's going to be a really relaxed food environment with the vendors each having a unique space to create food, all centred around a stage for live music and entertainment.”

Zen Nightclub Great Yarmouth

Zen Nightclub had an exotic Eastern theme in 2005. - Credit: Archant

The Jay family have been working with food consultant Alex Hutton.

Alex is originally from Gorleston and has just returned to the area after working in London.

Alex said “I think people are going to absolutely love the concept we are putting together.

"We have already got some top-drawer food vendors interested in joining us and are excited to add more in the coming weeks.

"It’s a dream come true to work on bringing this sort of concept to a truly iconic building that I grew up with.”

Bourbon Street in Great Yarmouth 2001

A view of The Empire trading as Bourbon Street in 2001. - Credit: Archant library

Visitors are being promised a unique experience with seating areas themed with memorabilia from Great Yarmouth’s entertainment history.

The Empire is listed as being one of the Top 10 seaside peoples’ palaces in Great Britain, built in 1911 as a cinema it has also been a bingo hall and night clubs Bourbon Street and Zen.

Zen Nightclub Great Yarmouth

A reminder of the decor inside Zen Nightclub in 2005. - Credit: Archant

It has been owned by the Jay family since 1947.

The Empire was one of Yarmouth's principal cinemas in the era when picture-going was a weekly habit for many.

Its terracotta frontage with twin pairs of imitation tall classical pillars made it an attractive addition to the sea-front scene.

It was the second purpose-built cinema to open in the town.

CHILDREN
GREAT YARMOUTH CHILDREN OUTSIDE THE EMPIRE CINEMA.
DATE 1960S
PLATE P5080

CHILDREN GREAT YARMOUTH CHILDREN OUTSIDE THE EMPIRE CINEMA. DATE 1960S PLATE P5080 - Credit: Archant Library

The Historic England listing makes particular reference to the decorative ceiling and giant columns that grandly flank the entrance, and curved ticket booths.

It was officially listed as a Grade II building of special interest in 1991.

gy. june 1955 empire cinema and britannia terrace in background p4557

gy. june 1955 empire cinema and britannia terrace in background p4557 - Credit: Archant Library

People are being encouraged to follow The Empire's various social media pages on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook via @theempireGY.

An opening date has yet to be set.

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