Two years after being granted planning approval, the Punjabi Grill at 39 to 41 High Street is finally welcoming its first customers, initially for deliveries and collections only.
Now Scottish Government first minister Nicola Sturgeon has given the go-ahead for restaurants to open next Wednesday, though, the new outlet’s owner, Raj Kumar, is to carry out a risk assessment to ensure it is ready to open on that day, if possible.
“We’ll make that decision based on our ability to ensure the safety of our customers and staff. That’s the top priority”, he said.
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The new restaurant has opened up at the former Farmfoods unit later headquarters to Alchemy Film and Arts for a time.
It had been due to open at the end of March, but those plans were delayed by the Covid-19 lockdown finally being eased now.
Raj, 44, says the venture is both a big investment for him and a vote of confidence in the town centre.
He said: “We have completely renovated the whole property from top to bottom to get it to the stage it is right now.
“The business is a modern take on Indian food.
“Our family are from northern India, Punjab, and it’s renowned for its hospitality, its high-quality food and fresh ingredients, and that’s what we want to bring to Hawick but with a modern twist.
“It’s a very clean, modern facility – the kind you find in the big cities.
“We’re from Birmingham, and we wanted to bring our quality food in a modern, warm, simple environment to Hawick.
“Through my work as an engineering management consultant, I had driven through Hawick a lot and I liked it.
“I liked the High Street and the architecture – I’m looking at the beautiful town hall now as I speak – and it was a shame it wasn’t going the right way in terms of closed shops, and then this opportunity came up.
“The people are extremely friendly, and me and the family thought it would be a fantastic location to open a business.”
Raj added: “The process has been delayed for four months, if not longer.
“We would have obviously opened earlier if it had not been for the Covid-19 pandemic, but we’ve had to make the best of it.
“It’s great we have got through that stage, and we are really looking forward to serving the people and the community of Hawick.
“It’s been amazing to have such a great response from people passing by, wishing us the best, asking us when we are opening.
“We’ve had some really warm comments and fantastic response on our social media platforms.
“This is a vote of confidence in the High Street and we are happy to be investing in it.
“Through the opening of the business, we have recruited local people and tradespeople. Right now we have eight staff, but during busier periods we’ll be recruiting part-time staff, and that could almost double that number.”
The grill will be open 5pm to 10pm Tuesday through to Sunday and is being managed by Ricky Bangar, owner of the Saffron restaurant in the town’s North Bridge Street for 13 years.
For more information, go to www.facebook.com/punjabigrillhawick