Despite enduring the ‘darkest times” during the COVID-19 pandemic restaurateur and chef Gary Usher wants to follow his success in Prescot by opening a new venue in Ellesmere Port. Tony McDonough reports
Restaurateur and chef Gary Usher defied the odds to successfully open the first new restaurant in Prescot in 30 years and now wants to help to revitalise another Liverpool city region location.
Gary, founder of Elite Bistros which operates six restaurants in Merseyside and the North West, embarked on a £50,000 crowdfunding drive to create Pinion, a French-style bistro on the former site of a BetFred bookmakers in Prescot.
HIs efforts were the focus on a Channel 4 documentary, The Rebel Chef, which aired in September 2019. Pinion is helping to bring about a revival in the historic Knowsley town, the origins of which date back to the 14th century.
Now Gary wants to repeat the feat in Ellesmere Port just weeks after raising another £161,000 through crowdfunding to launch Elite Bistro Events which will cater for weddings and other special events.
Elite Bistro group was founded in 2011 when Gary opened Sticky Walnut in Hoole. Since then, often using the crowdfunding method, he also opened five other restaurants including Burnt Truffle in Heswall and Wreckfish in Liverpool city centre.
Like many hospitality entrepreneurs, Gary has endured an horrendous 18 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Following the Elite Bistro Events fundraising drive, he said: “It’s been a terrible 18 months but in our darkest times the team started Elite Bistros at Home as I personally gave up all hope.
“I looked at folding Elite. Everyone disagreed and the teams running it turned Elite Bistros around.”
And on his Twitter feed over the weekend Gary announced his intention to open his seventh restaurant in another unfashionable location, Ellesmere Port. He said: “The Port is desperately in need of love.”
He also tweeted: “When I was 17 mum and dad moved to Ellesmere Port and I used to tell people we lived in Chester. Mum would say you’re a little f***ing snob. I was. 23 years later I’d be really bloody proud to open a restaurant there and shout about it from the rooftops. I’m embarrassed I was embarrassed.”
Later he posted: “Breaks my heart at the minute. Councils in towns across the UK need to bin rent and rates off to get operators in to grow towns back to what they were. Needs proper vision and open-minded plans.
“…People are too quick to start new projects in new buildings in new soulless areas. Reinvest in the towns and when another pandemic happens communities can stick together.”
He added that it was breaking his heart to see Ellesmere Part being “left to f***ing rot”. On Sunday he revealed he was now working with the local council to look at potential sites and he also Tweeted: “I’ve got business owners privately messaging me offering to help with any Ellesmere Port projects for free.”