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The Unorthodox Project sets up Elgin hub to progress plans for cocktail bar and restaurant hospitality training venue 'London House'


By Lorna Thompson

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IMAGES have been released of a new nightspot and hospitality training venue anticipated to be open on Elgin's High Street by next summer.

The Unorthodox Project is working towards the launch of its "London House" cocktail bar and restaurant by setting up a hub at the prospective three-floor venue at 132 High Street, overlooking the Plainstones.

The project has applied to become a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO). It will take on disadvantaged people of all ages who will be paid the Living Wage, £9.50 an hour, to work towards SVQs in the hospitality sector.

More than 25 local businesses have donated time, money and materials to establish the central office, including broadband and furniture.

Meanwhile, the building's landlord has offered up the venue rent-free for 42 weeks – after which the Unorthodox team plans to have the funding in place to buy the property.

The cocktail bar is a change of direction from the team's previous proposal, announced in March, to establish a smokehouse grill on Wards Road.

The Unorthodox Project is working towards securing SCIO status and funding to renovate a building at 132 High Street, Elgin, for its London House training venue.
The Unorthodox Project is working towards securing SCIO status and funding to renovate a building at 132 High Street, Elgin, for its London House training venue.
Plans for the London House cocktail bar and restaurant in Elgin include a café bar and restaurant on the first two floors.
Plans for the London House cocktail bar and restaurant in Elgin include a café bar and restaurant on the first two floors.

Former Inverness bar manager Jordan MacDonald (25), from Elgin, the driving force behind the Unorthodox Project, said: "Over the next few weeks, we will be hiring staff to support us with the growth of the project while we prepare to purchase the building and finalise our plans to renovate it into our cocktail bar and restaurant.

"They will use the ground floor of the building as an office and will be working towards obtaining vocational qualifications, while being paid the real Living Wage.

"This means we can return to our funders with some case studies that will support our funding applications."

The project has secured some funding to get up and running over the next 42 weeks and board members are confident that the case studies will open up more funding opportunities to get renovations under way.

Jordan added: "The plan is to get our charity status and we are using the office to prove to our funders that the concept is going to work."

Jordan MacDonald, of The Unorthodox Project, which has set up a hub on Elgin High Street to take forward its plans for a new nightspot and hospitality training venue, to be named 'London House'. Picture: Becky Saunderson.
Jordan MacDonald, of The Unorthodox Project, which has set up a hub on Elgin High Street to take forward its plans for a new nightspot and hospitality training venue, to be named 'London House'. Picture: Becky Saunderson.

A café bar and restaurant would take up the ground floor and first floor of the venue, while a late-night cocktail bar, including VIP booths, would be situated on the top floor.

The project plans to take on 25 people per year on six to 12-month contracts – enough time to complete their courses – working a 20 to 25-hour week.

Once people complete training they will be supported in finding permanent hospitality roles locally. They will then receive follow-up support for 12 months once they are in a new role.

The training provider will be Moray-based charity R-evolution For Good, run by Unorthodox board member Debi Weir.

Jordan added: "If this works, Elgin High Street can benefit.

"We plan only to trade between certain hours – serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. We won't do full menus the whole day, though we will have all-day bites menus. If we have people in training we want to keep business in short bursts when we will have people in to support them.

"This has been four years' worth of planning and it's really starting to come to some sort of fruition."

The project's overarching aims are to develop the workforce, support vulnerable groups in the community and help rebuild the hospitality sector post-Covid.

Surplus revenue would be re-injected into its wider objective to benefit the community, such as workshops to assist single parents with budgeting and cooking, baking sessions for young families, and supporting vulnerable people to develop employability and life skills.


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