THE new owners of Bournemouth’s cafe bar Flirt say the venue had its busiest day in months as they began their efforts to turn the business around.

They have appealed to disillusioned customers to return and give the venue another try.

Adam Jackson and Michael Gelardi bought the assets of the loss-making business at the Triangle last Friday and closed it on Monday for staff briefings and stock-taking.

Mr Jackson said: “Flirt was the heart of the community for a long time and we believe it still is. We need to get that heart beating strongly again.”

He said Tuesday saw “the busiest day it’s had for a few months”.

“I probably had 30-40 local businesses, community groups and regular customers come in who wanted to introduce themselves. I want to be here to meet those people and we’re going to be here for them,” he said.

The new owners are planning to refurbish the premises and overhaul the menu, with more vegan options, local products and an emphasis on sustainability and minimising waste.

They want to sponsor the Bourne Free Pride festival and are aiming to line up live entertainment from the likes of Toyah Willcox and Carol Decker.

Mr Jackson said all 15 staff were being kept on and offered extra hours to improve service.

“The staff are a great bunch. I’ve got to know them quite well already. They’re amazing people,” he said.

“They’re so hard working but they’ve been in a situation where they’ve had their hours cut down. If you’ve got three members of staff on at a busy lunch time, you’re never going to be able to give the customer service you want.

“The regular customers that have been coming every day for years were saying they couldn’t believe how much happier the staff were. All the staff are very happy because they’ve noticed a much better working environment already.”

The cafe bar was founded in 2011 by Rob Hazell and Peter Moody, who sold it in 2017 to Shaan Hussain. The new owners say they bought the assets from administrators and have signed a new 10-year lease.

Although Flirt still has strong scores on review websites, a number of recent reviews have been critical –with some contributors at Trip Advisor calling it “grubby and tired”, “not great” and “sadly disappointing”.

Mr Jackson said: “I’ve spent a long time reading all the reviews and feedback and can’t really see any that say that they are totally off the place. The ones that did have a bad experience say it was a shame because they love the place and what it used to be. The main focus is to get it back to what people loved.”

He added: “The really big message we want to get out to all of them is if you haven’t been here for a while or have had a bad experience in the last few months, it’s going to take us a little while to get everything straight, but bear with us, while we make improvements. We would like to see you back again.

“For anyone that’s had a bad experience, we’d like the opportunity to change that. Come in and say hi and if you’ve got constructive criticism, we want to take that on board. We need to hear it to make improvements.”

Mr Jackson is a former drag artist who performed at the cabaret bar Rubyz with local act Dame Kitty, and compered the Dreamboys cabaret show. He said he had been a customer at Flirt since it opened and had organised live events there.

“I grew up in a little village between Wareham and Dorchester. I was the only gay in the village,” he said.

He said he wanted Flirt to offer the welcome he had received in Bournemouth.

“I had no community, I had no one around like me. I moved into Bournemouth at 19. I changed my life, meeting other people like me, other creative people. All my weird and wonderful friends that were all sexes and sexualities and everyone was comfortable to be themselves.”