Ex Luminar boss to revive pizza restaurant chain

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The Independent Online

Stephen Thomas, the former chief executive of the UK's biggest nightclub group, Luminar, is to relaunch the Chicago Pizza Pie Factory restaurant chain in the UK.

The nightclub big hitter is understood to be working with Hotbed, the Milton Keynes-based private investor network, to deliver third-party funding for the project. The first outlet is set to open within 12 months.

Mr Thomas, who resigned from the board of Luminar in March after 22 years at the helm, has already registered an investment vehicle, No Saints, to roll out Chicago Pizza Pie Factory in locations such as retail parks with high footfall.

He owns the rights to operate the brand in the UK and plans to open an unspecified number of sites.

The Chicago Pizza Pie Factory brand disappeared from the UK high street a number of years ago.

Capital Radio bought the brand's owner, My Kinda Town, in 1997. At the time, My Kinda Town ran 53 bars and restaurants in the UK and overseas, including the Henry J Bean's, Chicago Rib Shack and Chicago Pizza Pie Factory chains. However, Capital Radio's restaurant division rebranded the Chicago Pizza Pie Factory outlets to the Havana chain.

Mr Thomas, who declined to comment yesterday, is one of the best known figures in the nightclub sector. A former manager at the leisure group Whitbread, Mr Thomas established Luminar in 1988 and the first club began trading in King's Lynn.

He built up a nightclub empire of about 300 venues, notably under the Chicago Rock chain of clubs, and floated the business in 1996 with a market capitalisation of £30m. However, Luminar has shrunk its portfolio in recent years by disposing of non-core assets and closing underperforming clubs, which were hit by the recession and changes in regulations, such as the smoking ban.

Luminar currently has 88 clubs including its core Oceana and Liquid brands, as well as Lava & Ignite, Life and The Jamhouse venues.

Mr Thomas resigned from the board of Luminar on 1 March this year but stayed until the summer to ensure a smooth transition.

Simon Douglas, the former managing director of Zavvi, the defunct entertainment retailer, replaced him as chief executive in March.

Sales at Luminar's 76 outlets fell by 19.9 per cent over the 19 weeks to 8 July.