A former Aldershot cinema-turned-nightclub is set to reopen as an entertainment venue, restaurant and bar, one street away from where a similar site will launch.
Farnborough-based Gurkha Event Planner (GEP) has secured a 15-year lease for The Palace, in Station Road, which has been empty since 2011 when its owner put it up for sale.
It was recently bought by Aldershot developer Suneet Jain, who also bought The King’s Centre in July.
The latter site – a former church which also started life as a cinema – has been leased to PRB Hampshire in a 15-year deal and renamed Empire.
Both leaseholders say they hope to open around October.
GEP has filed a listed building consent to Rushmoor Borough Council to carry out internal and external redecoration and refurbishment at The Palace, and rubbish clearing has started.
Tanka Rana, of GEP, which organises weddings and functions, said Mr Jain was looking for someone to take it on.
“We really like the features and everything inside,” Mr Rana said. “Downstairs will be a multi-functional venue for weddings, birthday parties and live music and upstairs will be the restaurant.”
PRB recently told the News Mail it hopes to run entertainment events and private functions at Empire, but Mr Rana said he did not think Empire would provide stiff competition for the Palace.
He said: “I’m not worried about that. I had a look round The King’s Centre before the current leaseholder. I think he will struggle getting the phone calls – people know me and know I do events.”
Mr Jain, who runs HPS Properties and BG Properties, rejected suggestions The Palace and Empire would be in competition.
He would not reveal how much he spent on the buildings, but said: “I have been looking at them for a long time.
“I get a lot of business from the community and this is something I can give back. Rather than someone demolishing the buildings for flats, we can preserve them.
“t might not be the best financial decision but sometimes you have to look beyond money. I spent a lot of money and it’s my intention to not do any other development but just preserve it.”
He said he wants Rushmoor Borough Council to approve the listed building consent for The Palace so work can start and ‘restore it to its former glory’.
The Palace opened in 1913 as a cinema, and as a club in 2010, but shut less than a year later when it failed to attract big-name acts.
Formerly known as Cheeks and Vox, it had been used as a nightclub for 20 years and before that was the Picture Palace cinema. The building was listed in 1979 and was one of the country’s first purpose-built cinemas.
Sarita Jones, planning officer at the borough council, said a site visit has been arranged and ‘then we will be in a better position to say what we are going to do’.
“It’s very early days,” she added.