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Following the sale of the former Masonic Lodge at 83 High Street, Huntingdon, the new owners of the property have revealed ambitious and exciting plans to convert the building to a restaurant, coffee shop, wine bar and with conference and additional events facilities at the property.

The property, which has historically been known as The Priory, has been bought by Raj Subhan, the Huntingdon businessman who operates the Darjeeling Restaurant in the town centre and his wife Lydia. Mr Subhan’s plans are to relocate the popular eatery to the new building and he is presently targeting Spring as the opening date for the new venture. Barford + Co, the St Neots based firm of Chartered Surveyors and commercial property consultants acted for Mr Subhan in the negotiations for his purchase of the property, and provided valuation and strategic advice as regards the building. Barford + Co’s planning department has also dealt with the planning application for change of use and a more recent application for the extension of the opening hours.

The plans for the property include the creation of a new upmarket cafe bar and restaurant with a menu to be based substantively on the Darjeeling’s successful recipes. There will also be more traditional British and continental snacks and sandwiches on offer and light meals throughout the day. A separate patisserie, coffee and tea shop which will open from early in the morning.  In addition, a range of first floor function rooms which can cater for weddings, parties and other similar functions will be available to hire. The largest room will be suitable for a large wedding reception. There will also be conferencing and meeting facilities which can be occupied by the hour, day or week.

Raj Subhan commented “This is a major investment in a significant town centre building in Huntingdon which had started to fall into decline. My intention is to create an upmarket attraction which will not only serve impressive Asian, British and other food, but also provide a top quality venue for functions and events”. Mr Subhan believes the facility will be a further addition to Huntingdon’s burgeoning night time economy. “With the recent opening of various leisure outlets in the town, including the Falcon Public House and the Market Hill Bistro, coupled with the commitment to the town by JD Wetherspoon, who are refurbishing the Former George Hall and Old Post Office at George Street, the time is right to bring forward my plans” he said.

Mr Subhan also pointed out that in order to cater for the widest range of customer requirements, he had applied to Huntingdonshire District Council for extended opening hours on Friday and Saturday evenings. In this respect, some objections from local residents have arisen, and Mr Subhan wished to assure people living in the town centre that his proposals are for a high quality cafe bar with associated function rooms.

“Following discussions with the Council’s planning officers, we have compromised on our original opening requirements for Friday and Saturday and are now happy to operate until midnight on these evenings. The Darjeeling has operated just across the road for over 12 years and we have never had any problems with our customers causing disruption to local residents” he said. “At the end of the day, if we do not run our business with respect for our neighbours, the drinks, music and entertainments licences would be withdrawn. This is the ultimate sanction which will give local residents the assurance they require that there will not be a noise or nuisance problem arising from my proposals which are for a high quality operation” reiterated Mr Subhan.

On behalf of Barford + Co, Director Phil Halmshaw stated “We are extremely pleased to have been able to assist Raj Subhan in his acquisition of this important property in Huntingdon town centre. His plans will not only bring life back into this important building which had started to fall into decline, but it will also add an excellent new facility to Huntingdon’s improving social scene”.

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