A NORTH-East restaurateur is opening his thirteenth venue in three years when lockdown restrictions ease.

Middlesbrough's new Rio Brazilian Restaurant was due to open last year but was delayed because of Covid-19 restrictions.

The former Bistrot Pierre venue, in Albert Road, was bought by Howard Eggleston after it was put up for sale last July because of the lockdown.

Mr Eggleston, from Yarm, who opened his first restaurant in Potto in North Yorkshire, owns the Tomahawk brand and employs 550 people.

The Middlesbrough venue was one of six in the chain of 25 restaurants which went up for sale last year.

Mr Eggleston was at a meeting discussing the possible purchase of two of the restaurants, when it emerged that Middlesbrough was also on the disposal list.

“We got straight onto it,” he said. “Middlesbrough was already a target for us and we were aware of the investment going into Centre Square, and then began reading about the businesses moving into the new offices.

There’s a great deal of potential and it was clear that people had a lot of faith in the future of the area.”

He added: "The location and setting – as well as what’s being developed in and around Centre Square – all paint a very positive picture for Middlesbrough’s future.”

The multi-million pound Centre Square development was launched five years ago to create high quality office space to attract occupiers providing well-paid jobs.

Four companies have announced that they are moving into the Centre Square offices, bringing around a thousand members of staff, and last month Ashall Projects – the developer behind the scheme – submitted a planning application for the next phase, Six Centre Square: a four storey 40,000 sq ft Grade A office building in Melrose Street.

Mark Ashall, director of Ashall Projects – who also co-owns of the nearby Holiday Inn Express, as well as the new restaurant’s premises - said: “We are delighted to welcome Rio Brazilian.

"During these difficult times it’s great to be working with forward looking operators like Mr Eggleston who has recognised the progress that is being made and realise the potential. I aim to be one of Rio’s first customers when it opens.

“Despite everything, the Centre Square development is moving forward. We hope to hear soon that Six Centre Square has received planning approval. One of Centre Square’s key attractions is its proximity to a wide range of amenities including quality restaurants like Rio Brazilian.”

Richard Wilson, senior associate with property agent Dodds Brown which acted for Ashall Projects, said. “The hospitality sector has been hit so hard by the pandemic – and it was really sad that Bistrot Pierre had to close - but it’s vitally important that we still look ahead. The new letting highlights Howard’s vision, which has created a highly successful business in a very short time, and the attraction of the Centre Square location.”

He added: “Centre Square is leading a revival of Middlesbrough town centre and it’s crucial that the momentum continues as more businesses continue to move there.”