Hugh Heffner's Playboy empire is planning to launch a private member's club and casino just off London's Trafalgar Square, Caterer can exclusively reveal.
The development on Northumberland Avenue, which is due to open in June 2007, will be part of a larger £50m restaurant, casino and bar complex in the Grade II-listed Northumberland House - formerly the Ministry of Defence (MoD) building.
No deal has been signed yet, but plans for the £10m Playboy area include a lounge, bar, private dining room and casino. Refurbishment and launch costs could add a further £25m to the project, which will be spread across the 30,000sq ft basement and ground floor.
Playboy denied a deal had been tied up. A spokesman said: "While we have identified London as an attractive location for a possible entertainment venue, we have nothing to announce at this time."
The freehold was bought from the MoD by New York-based business hotel group Club Quarters 18 months ago for a reported price tag of more than £30m. The group is currently developing a 290-bedroom business hotel above the club and casino.
The ground floor will also contain a 120-seat restaurant and two bars, which will be run by chef-restaurateur Steven Saunders and feature Japanese, Thai, English and French food. Saunders, who has invested £15m in the project, owns four other restaurants, including the Pink Geranium in Melbourn, Cambridgeshire.
The restaurant will be called Steven Saunders in Northumberland Avenue and, after a £2.5m revamp, it is expected to turn over about £8m per year. It is due to open in November and average spend with drinks will be £40 per head.
Saunders said: "We haven't got a chef lined up yet, but it will be a world-class restaurant - although we're not looking for Michelin stars and all the rubbish that goes with it."
Saunders is one of four directors of Blewstone Group, which is managing the project and appears to have already bought the playboyclublondon.com internet domain name.
By Tom Bill