TWO business owners are launching a new collaboration in a bid to survive following the three-month lockdown.

Darlington businessman Mussy Choudhury, who owns Red Hot Bar, in Houndgate, is teaming up with Shany Ahmed, chef at Bombay Gate, in Skinnergate, in a bid to survive pandemic and its aftermath.

The collaboration means Red Hot will launch as a Bollywood-themed bar, with customers able to order in food from Bombay Gate.

The men, who have been friends for more than 30 years and went to school together, have been thinking about working together for about a year but have launched the venture now as they try to survive the pandemic.

Mr Choudary, who has been running the Houndgate venue for five years, said: “For the last few months we have been having a very hard time.

The Northern Echo:

“I have a small restaurant, we only have 25 or 30 seats. With social distancing we can only fit in about 20 people.

“We are both local lads from Darlington and we’ve come up with the idea to keep us both running.

“We have worked together all over the place. We had the plan a year ago but this virus has got us thinking and we want to make it different.”

He added: “What we’re trying to do is a first for Darlington. We want to be the first in the North-East offering an Indian bar and restaurant collaboration.

“It’s doom and gloom at the moment but now we hope in the next few months we can back to normality.”

Mr Ahmed, who has previously appeared on reality cooking show The Chef, opened his fine dining restaurant in Skinnergate last year and has hopes of winning a Michelin star.

He was previously the head chef at the Bombay Duke café.

The venture launches today.

Mr Choudary said: “When we started this four or five years ago it was really stressful but we have people travel from all over now.

"Shany started his restaurant eight or nine months ago and he's a great chef. He's got class. My customers will like that."

He added: "I’m excited but I’m also nervous as well. It’s a new venture. It’s quite a hard time financially with the virus.

“What has made me happy in the last few days is seeing other businesses opening up again and seeing people about.

“We’re hoping to have lots of events to bring the community together and keeping the street together. People have supported us so we want to say thank you to all the businesses in Houndgate. I think in a way the virus has united us all.

“I’ve been having a hard time not seeing people and having a chat. We have been doing takeaway but you don’t see anyone which is hard.

“We are all going through a hard time but we have to put a brave face on and we are still here.”