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The former Sgt Pepper Bistro site on Smithdown Place and St Barnabas Penny Lane Church.

Despite repeated assurances by the owner, the landmark building has stood empty for 18 year

The sight of builders renovating the old Sgt Pepper’s Bistro site has once again sparked hopes surrounding its future.

The former restaurant at the end of Penny Lane has been empty for the last 18 years and the Beatles inspired landmark has long been due for a much needed face-lift.

Owner Raad “Ray” Maatook has repeatedly given assurances over the last decade that Sgt Pepper’s was set to reopen, but so far, this has come to nothing.
The building was bought by the businessman in 1989, but closed in 2003 and has never opened since, despite being granted planning permission which included a first floor extension.

It later reopened as a café and restaurant, decorated with Beatles photos,posters and Fab Four memorabilia. It remains a popular stop for fans visiting the city to take in Beatles tours.

Mr Maatook remains fiercely protective of the building, insisting he needed to find the right owner and has turned down prospective businesses wanting to use the building as being “not right for the area”.

In recent years, councillors have suggested Sergeant Pepper’s Bistro should be “confiscated” from Mr Maatook, but speaking to the ECHO this week, the businessman said he remains committed to finding the “right” tenant.

The sight of workmen renovating the building this week has renewed speculation on its future.

Mr Mattook claimed he was in talks with “two or three” seriously interested parties he has yet to make a decision on their proposed plans for the premises.He said that the interested parties are all “established” players in the hospitality industry.
In the meantime, he has decided to renovate the building to show it at its best as a cultural landmark.
He said the works were taking place “to make it look the way it deserves it to be,” adding: “I have to protect my property and I believe in the location. In ten days it’s going to look completely different to what it used to be.”

Mr Mattook said the outside of the building is being completely rendered to seal the walls. Plastering work and further renovation is also taking place inside.
The businessman reiterated what he wouldn’t sell the building ‘as long as he was alive,’ and said he had been “losing money for 18 years” while the property remained empty. He added: “I’ve talked to a lot of franchises in the past and I gave up. I’m now looking for established companies.”

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