A FORMER Italian restaurant in Colchester’s Hythe area could become a barbecue restaurant and lounge. 

Plans have been submitted to Colchester Council’s planning department to turn the former Portofino restaurant, in Haven Road, into a barbecue restaurant and shisha lounge. 

The applicant, Mr Katari of Masti Lounge, has applied to construct a pergola for the outdoor seating area and a small play area. 

The signage will be changed, replacing the old Portofino signs. 

The restaurant was run by renowned chef and entrepreneur Franco Murgia and his wife Gillian between 2005 and 2007 after he returned to Essex in 1986 to Colchester and worked in multiple kitchens across the city. 

The restaurant changed ownership in 2007, and later was only open for takeaways.

The plans show there would be a timber pergola created, replacement signs in place of existing, small play area and refurbishment of the extraction system. 

A shisha is a smoking device and sessions usually last 20 to 80 minutes. 

Old Heath and Hythe councillor Lee Scordis is delighted to see a revival of the restaurant. 

He said: “It is really good to see someone opening a business in the area.

"It has residents and a large student population, so hopefully it can be a success and other units may open, too.” 

His fellow ward councillor Michael Lilley added: "We are absolutely happy with what has been proposed and have not received any complaints from residents about the application so far.

"We need places that are empty at the moment being filled in the area. Often, people complain about empty spaces becoming restaurants or barbers but they create employment opportunities and this has a positive knock-on effect.

"It is very good to see this empty space transformed."