Cafe bar plan for Empire Theatre site

The old entrance to the Empire Theatre
The old entrance to the Empire Theatre

The next act in the life of a crumbling Burnley theatre could see its former entrance become a cafe and wine bar.

Plans have been submitted to transform the entrance area of the former Empire Theatre in St James’s Street into a cafe bar with a rear terrace and balcony.

Prominent Burnley businessman Pino Musso wants to breathe new life into the area that once served as the entrance to the Empire, latterly used as a cinema and bingo hall.

The main part of the Empire, in Cow Lane and now owned by the Duchy of Lancaster, has been the subject of a recent campaign from interest groups to re-open the late Victorian theatre.

However, Mr Musso believes the theatre is beyond repair and is hoping other interested parties will work with him to restore it for another use.

He said: “I have owned the entrance area for a few years now, and I feel the time is right to redevelop it. Our plan is to create a cafe bar serving continental food, aimed primarily at the evening crowd.

“It will have a new mezzanine floor and will be completely refurbished. We are very excited to bring it back to use.”

The Empire Theatre was built for W.C. Horner of the Victoria Opera House in Burnley.

The theatre opened on October 29th, 1894, and could originally seat 1,935 people. In 1938 it was converted for cinema use, and eventually for bingo use in 1970.

Despite being a Grade II listed building, it has been empty since 1995 and is in serious decline, prompting it to be placed on the Theatre Trust’s buildings at risk.

The Burnley Empire Theatre Trust was formed in late 2015 following a campaign to raise public awareness of the Empire and undertake the steps necessary to preserve and renovate it.