Steak restaurant and bar celebrates 20 years in Carlisle

Dempsey's restaurant in Carlisle is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a party
Dempsey's restaurant in Carlisle is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a party

A bar and restaurant which has kept Carlisle fed and watered for 20 years will celebrate its anniversary with a party tonight.

Norman Forrester opened Dempsey's - on the corner of Warwick Road and Crosby Street - after his friend, former nightclub boss Ged Crooks, bought the building, creating what's become a city institution.

Mr Forrester said: "Ged bought the building which used to be a TV shop and my friend Arthur Smith and I decided to open it as a restaurant."

Dempsey's was born - and it was the first of its kind in the city - which, back then, was home to only about 13 restaurants.

"I was mad about boxing so we had lots of boxing memorabilia in the bar back then - on both floors. Pictures of Alan Minter and other boxers.

"It was a steak and fish restaurant."

But after a year the business partners went their separate ways.

Mr Forrester continued to run the restaurant.

He said: "We were the only restaurant on the street. I think there were about 13 restaurants in Carlisle back then as pubs didn't do food. Now there are more than a hundred places to eat.

"We used to have 120 covers but now we cater for 70 people.

"We use upstairs as the dining area and downstairs as a bar at the weekend. In the week we close upstairs and turn downstairs into an eating area.

"Steak is still our most popular item on the menu. We get our meat from Pioneer."

Saturday night is the restaurant's busiest night.

Mr Forrester said: "We have a lot of regular clientele that still come after 20 years. The likes of Fred Story, William Stobart and Andrew Tinkler are regular guests, as well as personal friends.

"Carlisle United's footballer's often dine upstairs after the match and in the past the club's former chairman John Courtenay was a regular visitor."

Dempsey's is managed by Paul Fontana, who is Mr Forrester's godson. He has been at Dempsey's for about 13 years.

"He does a great job and it's nice for me as at my age I don't want to be here all the time," said Mr Forrester.

In the past few years the top of Warwick Road has become more popular.

Mr Forrester said: "It's good to see the area all lit up now. It was very dark at one point and I always used to wonder why they located a taxi rank in darkness but it's better now that The Halston is on the go.

"The whole area is changing for the better I think. We're getting a new bar next door and another one down the street."

Dempsey's will celebrate tonight with a party with live music and a buffet from 7pm.

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