BrewDog, The Botanist and other reasons to be positive about Ipswich town centre

Fitting out The Botanist in the Old Post Office building is due to start this week.

The Botanist restaurant will be opening soon in the former Post Office - Credit: Charlotte Bond

It's been a tough few years for Ipswich town centre - but you don't have to look too hard to see that there are green shoots appearing and by the end of 2022 there could be some significant new arrivals for people to enjoy.

Here's a flavour of what is to come, and reasons to feel positive:

The Botanist

The Botanist, Manchester

The Botanist is known for its characterful interiors - this is its Manchester restaurant. - Credit: Archant

At last, one of the most prominent buildings in the town centre, the Old Post Office, will have a use that befits its position when one of Britain's most eye-catching restaurant groups opens its new site there in the spring.

The opening may have been delayed from February, but it should be operating from the spring - when customers should also be able to take advantage of outdoor tables and chairs for alfresco dining.

Dough & Co streetfood

The Little Waitrose in the Corn Exchange closed at Christmas

The new streetfood restaurant will open in the former Little Waitrose in Ipswich Corn Exchange. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

The company behind the Dough & Co pizza restaurant on Cardinal Park plans to open a new street food restaurant and takeaway in the former Little Waitrose in the bottom of the Corn Exchange - opposite The Botanist.

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This is also expected to have outdoor seating to help create a dining area at the top of Princes Street. The market stalls that currently occupy that area are due to move to the bottom of Lloyds Avenue in the spring.

Honey and Harvey

Honey and Harvey

Honey and Harvey have faced delays in opening on Giles Circus but it should be ready to open its doors in the spring. - Credit: Archant

Proposals by the Suffolk-based cafe operators to open in the former Mambos bar at the junction of Queen Street and Princes Street were first unveiled several years ago and have been delayed by problems with the building and the pandemic.

However now work has restarted, and the cafe has applied for a drinks licence. It is expected to open early in the spring and will be a welcome addition to the town centre offer.

BrewDog

Brewdog site

Brewdog hopes to open on Albion Wharf on the site of the former La Tour Cycle Cafe. - Credit: Paul Geater

A licensing application for the proposed bar on the Waterfront was finally granted by Ipswich council last week. 

The proposal still needs formal planning permission from the borough - but given that the unit is allocated for a restaurant or bar in the local planning guidance it would be a major surprise if it was turned down.

And once BrewDog gets going later this year there are hopes that other bars and restaurants could follow in a part of the Waterfront that has been slower than others to be developed.

Former Debenhams building

A look around the former Debenhams in Ipswich

Clearing out the former Ipswich Debenhams is now well under way. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

The closure of the town centre's largest store in May was a disaster for Ipswich - as it was for cities and towns across the country - but its purchase by Cambridgeshire-based developers UNEX does look like good news for the town.

The company has already started preparing it for redevelopment and is talking prospective tenants and the borough council which is just as keen to see it reoccupied.

There is speculation that the ground floor could be split into separate shops and cafes - and potentially the first could open later this year. That would be a real benefit for the town centre.

Grimwades

Ipswich Cornhill is dominated on one side by Grimwades and Debenhams - but in a few months they will

Ipswich is waiting to hear what it will get from the Towns Deal. - Credit: Paul Geater

This has been unoccupied, apart from the occasional temporary shop, for many years - but it is understood that there has been interest in it from a company that wants to develop it as a restaurant.

This is still early days - but the opening of another venue on the Cornhill would re-establish this as the heart of the town and confirm the arrival of a cafe culture here.

What is needed for all these sites is a growing confidence among potential customers that eating and drinking out will be safe - and the threat of further restrictions is eased.

That appears to be happening now and by the middle of March as spring starts to show its hand the prospect of enjoying a meal outside will improve. As more people venture into the town centre, potential operators may well start to look at other sites as well.

The Big Hoot

The Big Hoot 2022 will return to Ipswich between June and September 2022. 

The Big Hoot 2022 will return to Ipswich between June and September 2022. - Credit: St Elizabeth Hospice

The Big Hoot will be the third art trail by St Elizabeth Hospice held in Ipswich, with Pigs Gone Wild in 2016 and Elmer’s Big Parade three years later raising vital funds for the charity.

The owls, developed in partnership with creative producers Wild in Art, are set to be placed throughout Ipswich in the summer. They provide a colourful addition, and a huge hit with families, and the art trails have brought thousands of visitors into the town in previous years.