A RESTAURANT owner says it’s now a case of “pushing forward” as he and staff look to put setbacks behind them.

Panama Jacks has had a testing time since opening in Worcester last October, but owner Phil Davies is confident the tide is turning as he looks to take advantage of the fast-approaching summer months.

“All the things that should’ve been done, are being done, and we just hope and pray that it comes out the other side,” he told the Worcester News.

The 45-year-old businessman has plenty of experience running pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants, and the original intention for the Angel Place venue was a “higher end bar-restaurant”.

However, he said the stand-alone bar licence was rejected, meaning the opening had to be pushed back by months and thousands of extra pounds were spent turning it into an American-style steakhouse.

“We lost four months on the strength of it,” said Mr Davies. “The cost incurred with the rent and everything else, rates and what not, it’s huge. Probably put 60k on it.

“I have no real bank funding, it’s my own money. The problem is, you’ve got to see it through.”

He said: “Our licence covers only for alcohol to be served as an ancillary to food, i.e. you’ve got to be eating to have a drink. There could be no bar element, and that’s obviously when we came up with Panama Jacks.”

Mr Davies said the intention is now very much a family establishment and while they are working on several marketing campaigns, including student discounts, they won’t attempt to get the full alcohol licence in future.

He said the crossed wires regarding the licensing were down to several things, including bad advice, but having already purchased the venue, he had to adapt.

“If I’m brutally honest, this is a little big for a restaurant on its own. You should be [looking at] two thirds [of this size], like 60 covers. This is a big space – it’s a big space to heat. It wasn’t ideal, no.”

Added to this, just days after opening, the restaurant was inspected by Worcestershire Regulatory Services and given a zero food hygiene rating.

Mr Davies said the issues were dealt with within a matter of days and related to problems with the hot water, caused by a soft drink system, and a canopy in the kitchen.

“Obviously it was tough, we’d just opened. The entire water supply was amended and a complete new system was put in.”

He has been told hygiene inspectors will be visiting over the next two weeks and he expects to get a good rating.

Mr Davies, who originally opened the venue with his business partner Matt Williams, said he is in the process of applying for an outdoor table licence ready for the summer.

“As soon as the clocks go back, you generally see an upturn,” he said. “If you get that table licence, it changes the venue completely. We’re going to try and get 26 covers out there with outdoor heating and vinyl light fencing.”

Referring to encouraging trade in Angel Place, he said: “It’s been difficult. We are going to add to the signage on the outside of the building, it’s going to get re-lit because it’s very dark here at night, because there’s no ambient light.

“All of the things that haven’t been done are now in the process of being done,” he added.

Mr Davies was forced to sack his first general manager and head chef but said rumours that the current manager has been let go are not true, while the rest of his staff have “all been here since day one”.