Published: 06:00, 07 January 2021
| Updated: 14:33, 08 January 2021
Ambitious plans have been unveiled for the former Pizza Express in Maidstone.
The Earl Street venue is set to be transformed into a five-floor “events centre”, with live music, a whisky room, a members only cocktail bar, a pizza restaurant, a record shop and radio station.
The vision for the venue, named The Green Room, belongs to DJ Richard Carerra, real name Enrique Rodal, and his three managing partners, who are leasing the building.
Mr Carerra was previously in the news when dance parties organised by company The Garden Project, of which he is a promoter and director, were probed by Maidstone Council for a potential breach of coronavirus rules.
The events, held at a field in Longton Wood, Detling on October 29, 30 and November 1, had permission to go ahead with social distancing measures in place but footage emerged which appeared to show these may not have been adhered to.
However, the council has confirmed that there was not sufficient evidence to take enforcement action, which could have resulted in a £1,000 fine.
The council added the organisers produced“counter-evidence”, to the social media extracts.
An application to vary the premises licence of the former pizza parlour in Earl Street has now been lodged by Unity Parties Limited, of which Mr Carerra is a director.
He intends for his new eatery, called The Backyard Pizza Company, using ingredients shipped from Naples, can open for takeaway today and the rest of the venue can welcome the public in mid-March, with social distancing in place.
Mr Carerra said: “We were hoping we wouldn’t be in full lockdown but if it helps the country then we are all for it. The worry is if it carries on to April.
"When we can open we are going to be looking at hiring 50 staff and bringing culture and music back into the town.”
Jazz nights, which were held at Pizza Express, would return. They already have thousands of vinyl records ready to sell at their music store, called Deep Routed Wax, ranging from house to eighties tunes.
Mr Carerra said he had been running festivals and events for the last 15 years.
The licensing application includes extending trading hours from 8am to 4am, with a breakfast menu served.
The application reads: “The 4am variation is for various functions including dance music, comedy and live entertainment.”
In the basement there will overflow for the restaurant and available for private hire. The ground floor will hold a whisky room and restaurant, while Deep Routed Wax will be on the first floor with a multi function room at the back.
On the second floor there will be a members only cocktail bar and the third floor will be home to Sound Garden Radio, which plays music 24 hours a day.
Pizza Express closed its Maidstone branch in August, to cut costs amid the pandemic.
When asked about the result of the investigation into the events in Detling, an MBC spokesperson said: “MBC can confirm that following an investigation in close partnership with Kent Police and upon reviewing the evidence with the council’s legal advisers it was concluded that there was not sufficient evidence to take formal enforcement action.
“This was because whilst we had been provided with social media extracts of video footage and photographs showing what appeared to be non-compliant behaviour these were from third parties and we had no first-hand evidence or testimony to support them.
“However, the operator was able to supply counter-evidence in similar format which showed him stopping the music and getting people to sit back in their places and reminding them of the rules .
“He was also able to provide first-hand testimony that what we had seen was not indicative of the event as a whole.”