Entrepreneur James Pennington has turned back the clock by opening premium cocktail bar and restaurant Black Olive in the building where he and wife Victoria enjoyed their first date 10 years ago.
Black Olive has opened its doors on Yarm High Street following a six-figure investment to convert a building that previously hosted Lucia’s eatery.
Co-owner James (above, right), who married Victoria in October 2016, took his future wife for their first date at the venue – then part of the Joe Rigatoni’s group – when they worked together across the road at The Keys.
James, who also co-owns Black Olive at Hartlepool Marina with Mike Racz (above left) and Jack Ogden, said: “This venue is really special to me because it’s where I brought Victoria for our first date all those years ago.
“When I saw the venue was up for sale, I started to ring from 7am. When I got through, I offered the owners the asking price, with no haggling.”
He added: “Yarm is very special to me because I grew up here, the first bar I worked in was The Keys just across the High Street and my grandma used to work at Safeway just up the road too.”
Located above Strickland and Holt, the new venue specialises in cocktails, spirits and high-quality food with James promising visitors “a fantastic customer experience for those looking for a taste of Yarm’s famous nightlife.”
The Black Olive Yarm promises drinkers and diners “modern, yet comforting surroundings” within a “luxurious mix of eclectic and contemporary décor”.
Architects Naru and Ross, the team behind the designs of local eateries such as Cena, Muse and Sockburn Hall, carried out what James describes as an “amazing conversion” to transform the one big room of Lucia’s into Black Olive’s four distinct, individually-themed rooms.
Rooms include a library featuring Chesterfields and a door that is a bookcase, plus a champagne zone and dining room.
“It look amazing,” said James. “Every room has been taken to the next level and given its own identity. It’s definitely got the wow-factor.
“We feel we’ve got the perfect offering in the perfect place. Yarm is back on the rise, there’s a lot of investment going on and there’s a real buzz about the High Street again.”
Black Olive has employed 20 full and part-time staff including experienced former Lucia’s duo, manager Marco Saba and chef Vincenzo Puddu.
The food offerings include an a la carte menu featuring chorizo chicken, braised ox cheeks, monkfish and half lobster, while the lunch menu features paninis, wraps, pizzas and pasta dishes.
Alongside a range of unique cocktails, Black Olive also offers a choice of 60 gins as part of a wide drinks menu.