THREE men who are working on a bar and restaurant complex next to Carlisle’s crumbling Central Plaza Hotel say they will still go ahead with their plans - even though they won’t be able to open next month.

Dan White, Jack Lee and Matty Boak are working to turn the former Carlisle Bed Centre shop on Victoria Viaduct into a new £2m venue called Within the Walls.

Dan and Jack currently run Hell Below on Devonshire Street, a bar they have to leave on November 1.

Dan said: “We are not going to be able to trade from our new venue in the near future. We can’t stay in Hell Below and we won’t be able to open because of what’s happened with the hotel.

“Our priority is to keep staff in jobs. We are looking for a temporary pop-up in the city where we can trade until we know what’s happening.

“At the moment we still have access through the rear entrance but I don’t know how long this will be for. We are still going ahead with the work but we won’t be able to trade in our new venue in the near future.

“We have a lot of bookings for Christmas - this is one of the busiest times. We have a huge amount of bookings for December. It’s a stressful time.”

Despite the temporary hiccup, Mr White believes the demolition of the hotel would be “a positive thing for the area”.

“Hopefully, in the long term, it will be a huge positive for the area and the city,” he said. “The council is very restricted in what they can do and while it is frustrating for us now, it will be better in the long term.

“The businesses in this area are very determined. We will pull together to find a solution. If the hotel is demolished it will be great. We are staying positive.”

Meanwhile, the country’s top demolition expert will inspect the ownerless hotel next week to formulate a demolition plan as the roof is about to cave in.

He will advise on how to remove dangerous masonry from the ruined hotel which has fallen into a serious state of disrepair.

All the floors in the front part of the building have collapsed and the remaining timber floors are badly decayed. The vaulted ceiling to the basement has been severely damaged.

The council says “urgent action” is needed to make the building safe.

Council chiefs were forced to put a cordon around the hotel this week after floors fell in prompting serious safety fears.

Cumbria County Council shut the road to vehicles and pedestrians with council bosses warning that it is likely to be months - rather than weeks - before it is open again.

Jane Meek, head of economic development at Carlisle City Council, said: “The top demolition man in the country is due to visit us next week.

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“He will work with our engineers to put a demolition plan together and make a judgement as to how that will impact on businesses in the cordon.

John Mallinson, leader of Carlisle City Council, said: “It’s a very intricate process - very complex. We have to keep everyone around there - the public and contractors - safe.

“We are looking at very experienced and competent people doing this for us.”

Ms Meek said: “A plan needs to be put in place before machinery arrives. We have set up a small team to work solely on this and to coordinate responses.

“A lack of activity does not mean we are not doing anything. We are working extremely hard.”

Hoardings were put up around the hotel yesterday to secure the perimeter of the site. And 24-hour security is now in place.

Councillor Ruth Alcroft, the city’s Labour MP hopeful, believes the Government - not Carlisle taxpayers - should pick up the bill for the Central Plaza.

She said: “The bill for the Central Plaza should be picked up by the Conservative Government, not the constituents of Carlisle.

“I have a simple message for John Stevenson: the bill for the Central Plaza should be picked up by your Government, not your constituents.

“The Central Plaza site rests with Crown Estates, a business which has generated £2.6 billion in revenue for the Government over the last 10 years.

“The responsibility for the building lies firmly with the UK Government, however our cash-strapped council has been forced to spend hundreds of thousands of Carlisle taxpayer’s money to secure the building, and local businesses have to bear the burden of the closure of the Viaduct once again.

“We need somebody in Parliament who will put pressure on the Government to get this issue solved once and for all.

“I am calling on Simon Clarke MP, the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, to visit Carlisle and see this issue for himself. The Government must step in here.”

But Mr Stevenson hit back and said Labour, who were in control of the city council during the last Viaduct closure in May 2018, should have prepared the building for demolition back then to stop it from collapsing in on itself.

He said: “Labour are quick to blame others. The Government is very unlikely to do anything as they will have similar situations with buildings up and down the country. This situation is not unique to Carlisle.

“The Government is allocating some money for town centres. There will be an opportunity there to seek support for redevelopment of the site in the future.

“The only thing for the council to do now is to put in place the appropriate arrangements to have the building taken down.”

Businesses in the area like Tesco, Laser Quest/Total Engima escape rooms and Rockit Home, have been forced to close their doors as they lie within the cordon.

Last year’s closure of Victoria Viaduct, which began in May, lasted for nearly two months. This was also put in place due to fears over the safety of the former hotel.

* For highway enquiries and queries regarding the road diversions around the hotel contact Cumbria County Council Highway’s Hotline on 0300 303 2992 or visit