Will The Botanist hail a fresh start for town centre nightlife?
- Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND
After months of waiting The Botanist is set to open in Ipswich in coming weeks - but does this signal a new beginning for the town's night-time economy?
The new World Trading Company, which is behind the new addition to the town centre, has invested heavily in fitting out the former post office to create a "unique, unrivalled pub experience - full of fun and wonder".
Sitting on the Cornhill, the venue, due to open in February, should bring more people to the heart of the town.
It is hoped it will also give a more joined-up feel to a town which has a rather disjointed night-time economy with bustling bars on the Waterfront, a theatre at the far end of Carr Street and successful restaurants dotted around the town, including along The Saints, but no real nucleus of evening activity.
This is something Ipswich Vision is acutely aware of and they have recently reaffirmed their commitment to the '15-minute town' concept, with better connectivity between the Waterfront, Christchurch Park and the railway station.
At the dawn of 2022, Councillor Sarah Barber, town centre portfolio holder at Ipswich Borough Council said she is optimistic that this is just the start of a revival of Ipswich's night-time economy post Covid.
She said: "The offer Ipswich town centre has is quite distinctive; we have things that will attract people back into the town centre.
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"It's not just about the pub and clubs - we had a really successful Sound City event, we've got new music venues opening.
"We still need to be mindful of Omicron and making sure everybody is safe, but eventually Covid will be finished and it's really good that we actually have a town centre economy that's still there for people to use as and when they feel safe to come back."
And the increase in residential property in central Ipswich could also be "exciting" for the night-time economy, with more urban living hoped to lead to more people using the venues that will be almost literally on their doorsteps.
Cllr Barber continued: "We're going to have more people living in the town centre as well which will help to increase the vibrancy.
"We might be in for a bit of a tough time in the short-term, and I really feel we should do everything we can to support businesses now to make sure they're here in the future for all of us to enjoy.
"As residents of Ipswich and the surrounding area we need to use them to make sure they're still here."
Data from Centre for Cities for the last week of November 2021 showed that while weekday footfall hadn't yet recovered to pre-pandemic levels in Ipswich, visiting numbers at weekends and evening were above the 100 index.
A spokesman for Centre for Cities said this would suggest "most people are now willing to return to city centres for leisure purposes such as shopping or nightlife, but not for work".
Venues in Ipswich are anticipating further challenges, but staff at Bar Twenty One, which opened in St Nicholas Street in October, said they believe "the future is looking healthy for Ipswich nightlife".