The face of Burton was radically changing as the new Millennium dawned, with brewery land being replaced by a range of new leisure facilities.

Many folk in the town were initially sceptical about the idea, but they soon warmed to the fact that the development arm of Burton brewer Bass was behind the £10 million idea and hundreds of jobs would be created.

Long before shops arrived at what was Bass Brewery’s middle yard, Middleway Park opened with a quartet of businesses.

The curtain-raiser was the American-themed restaurant and bar Chicago Rock Cafe which opened on Friday August 25, 2000, bringing with it 60 new jobs.

Alongside was the New-York Italian-themed restaurant of Frankie and Benny’s, a KFC restaurant and a nine-screen cinema.

It’s ironic that as the first business to open to customers, Chicago Rock is the only one of the quartet of flagship premises to close.

Yet at the same time, the American-themed restaurant and bar remains one of the most talked-about venues among its lost audience.

So much so that a special reunion event is planned for Chicago Rock Cafe fans at Society and Manhattans in High Street.

Burton partygoers invited to Chicago Rock Cafe reunion event

The Chicago Rock Cafe brand was created in the UK by entertainment group Luminar Leisure in 1989 and thrived during the 1990s.

The Burton outlet was the 46th restaurant to open and cost £1 million to build.

While promoting the concept of a Chicago Rock Cafe arriving in Burton, the brand’s marketing manager Fariyal Suleman said: "Basically all our other Chicago Rock Cafes have a restaurant, bar and entertainment so people can have a complete night out under one roof.

"Our cafes have a strict music policy of playing "classics" from 1957 to 1986."

Everything about Chicago Rock Cafe was new and innovative – including its staff.

While recruiting to fill the 60 vacancies on offer at the Burton venue, the restaurant said it was seeking staff similar to the Tom Cruise role in the film Cocktail, with personality more important than any other trait.

A special recruitment event was held in the town with a group interview night tempting would-be employees to bid for jobs.

A spokesman for Luminar Leisure said at the time: "Ten years in the making, Chicago Rock Cafe prides itself on employing the bubbliest young performers that are willing and able to be nurtured into future managers.

A joint promotion between Chicago Rock Cafe and the Burton Mail saw Greg and Audrey Conroy win a VIP package on the opening night of August 25, 2000 including a helicopter ride.
A joint promotion between Chicago Rock Cafe and the Burton Mail saw Greg and Audrey Conroy win a VIP package on the opening night of August 25, 2000 including a helicopter ride.

"If you are a budding Tom Cruise or a natural exhibitionist who just loves to show off then Chicago Rock Cafe wants to hear from you."

Even the opening of the venue was a grand affair, with the Burton Mail helping to organise a special VIP package for readers.

A new snooker club in Burton in 1992 promised to mix pool tables with a fun pub

The lucky winners – Greg and Audrey Conroy – where whisked away in a limousine before leaving the Craythorne Golf Club via helicopter for a tour of Burton before making the short journey to the restaurant.

Burton’s Chicago Rock Cafe closed suddenly in December 2010 and remained vacant until being converted into a Nandos and Bella Italia in 2015.