Retail Design Expo
Retail Design Expo

The Keys Darlington

The renovation of an historic building, designed and built in 1854, has been completed following an 11 month project.

The Keys Darlington, located at 82 Skinnergate, has had many uses over the years including being utilised as a Mechanic’s Institute, as well as a bank and a series of bars.

The grand structure is very well known in the area but was in need of serious structural works after being purchased by Vicky Powell and Alastair Power of Mistell Ltd. We caught up with Paul Rowntree, Operations Manager of the venue, to find out more about the project which he oversaw alongside Project Manager Ian Briggs.

Works began on site in December 2013 with Pro Drive Shopfitting acting as the main contractor and J S Design Ltd delivering the architectural services during the scheme. Paul Rowntree commented:

“The venue needed gutting and so we conducted serious internal structural work including the installation of steel work to secure the building. We have carried out a lot of work to the building to support it before building around the new structures.

The Keys Darlington

“The venue opened on the 28th November last year and is already starting to promote growth in the area. We have employed 80 to 100 local people during the build and all of our food is sourced locally, where possible, which again helps support local businesses.”

The venue is split over three floors; the ground, first and second floor. The new owners required planning permission to renovate the building because of its listed status which was a challenge for the on site team. Paul said that the owners were keen to modernise the building but were also eager not to lose, or alter, any of the historic features.

Working alongside local conservation officers the team ensured the building’s character was not affected. The pitched roof was retained as were many of the visible, historic features.

The venue boasts an impressive grand entrance which is framed by two large pillars. The lobby area can be accessed via elegant glass doors and is lit by modern LED lit chandeliers. The lobby space leads into the restaurant which comprises a large LED lit front bar, upholstered seating and booth areas and moveable dining tables on the left hand side.

The Keys serves gourmet pub food in the day time from breakfast through to dinner and plan to launch a cookery school later on in 2015 which will utilise the brand new kitchen facilities. The 90 cover restaurant is open seven days a week and at night time transforms into a late night bar complete with a DJ booth. The first floor is home to a newly designed nightclub which boasts a plethora of industrial features including exposed brickwork, concrete features, light wooden flooring and metal handles. The club is open Monday, Friday and Saturday and comprises two main rooms; one of which contains a lit dance floor, VIP area, booth seating and plays a mixture of pop and chart music and the second room plays house music.

The Keys Darlington

The top floor of the building contains the club toilets and office space.

The project ran relatively smoothly however the on site team did encounter challenges including having to construct from scratch a smoking terrace and ensure all building regulations were met.

Paul said the renovation project has been fantastic to be a part of. He added:

“It has been amazing to be involved in such a large project and be involved in the operational side of things from the start. It is great to have this kind of project under my belt.”

Prodrive Shopfitting Ltd

Prodrive Shopfitting were established in 2003 and since their inception have provided a quality shopfitting service throughout the UK. The firms are experts at delivering a whole range of interior fit outs to clients consisting of commercial properties to retail projects as well as restaurants and hotels. The firm pride themselves on continually providing the highest standards of service and craftsmanship.

The firm were tasked with undertaking the full renovation of the building which now contains The Keys Darlington. As the main contractor on the scheme Prodrive prepared the building for its fitout which involved working closely with the National Heritage in order to preserve the grade II listed property.

The Keys Darlington

The property’s façade, the stone repairs and the structural stabilising of the building required careful planning. The firm oversaw works by local stone mason David France to mason stitch and repair the façade in order to ensure the Heritage and Conservation teams guidelines were adhered to.

Prodrive replaced all of the buildings services including the drainage, water supply and the gas main. Fire escapes were installed and the floors were designed in line with the proposed dance floor that was to be fitted in the roof space. The space was also insulated for sound in line with this facility.

Prodrive also undertook all of the fitout works with the help of their subcontractors EIS Electrical, Ormesby Ceilings, SCP Decorators and MBE Glazing. Craig Nicholson, project manager, at Prodrive commented:

“Prodrive Shopfitting managed all trade for the client as well as coordinating deliveries, site inductions and forwarding information to ensure all the relevant trades were able to work within the time restraints.”

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