A nightclub owner has said his business will be staying open indefinitely – despite plans being tabled turn the building into a restaurant, with flats above.

A planning application to turn the current office space above the Ivory Bar and Club in Brand Street, Hitchin, into 10 flats with the nightclub itself being converted into a restaurant has been submitted to North Herts District Council.

But Carl Barto, the owner of the venue, said he has plans to invest in the business with a refurbishment and improvement of the facilities, and the application is just a back-up option.

The 45-year-old, who has owned the Ivory since 2005, said: “I would like to confirm that planning is being sought, but merely as a fallback plan should the office letting market not improve over the next few years.

“With the improvement of the economic climate, it is unlikely this will be the case, and so there will be no need for redevelopment meaning that the Ivory will be staying open indefinitely.

“I am, in fact, investing in the Ivory with a refurbishment and improvement of facilities being undertaken in November, just in time for the Christmas parties. I wouldn’t be doing this if it was going to close, so customers can be reassured that they will be able to enjoy a night out at the Ivory for some time to come.”

Another application also seeks permission to convert the office building and ground floor bar into 13 flats.

A spokesman for Aitchison Raffety, the managing agent acting on behalf of the landlord, said: “The position is that no decision has been made but planning permission has been sought in the event that the office letting market does not improve.”