Baldwins prepare to close doors of Sheffield's beloved Omega
The owners of one of Sheffield's most popular banquet venues have announced plans to retire.
David and Pauline Baldwin will step away from the beloved Baldwin's Omega in Brincliffe in July next year.
The couple took over the venue more than 30 years ago and have kept up a reputation for excellent food and lively parties.
Through hosting countless events and gatherings they have seen the changing face of Sheffield as businesses and clubs grew and disappeared, and people's habits changed.
Thousands of Sheffield's residents will remember the Omega and its colourful hosts.
But a drop in demand for big events during the week has convinced the couple the time is right to call it a day.
Pauline, 66, and David, 77 - known to friends as Big 'Un - decided to give themselves a long goodbye period to honour existing bookings and give others a chance to hold their final event at the Omega.
"The decision was partly to do with age, but mostly to do with a changing world," said Pauline.
"The generation coming up doesn't go out as much as their parents and grandparents."
That's not to say the Omega is not popular with its regulars. The Baldwins still do a roaring trade in midweek lunches and weekend events.
But they have made their decision to sell, with planning permission already in place for about 40 homes on the site in Brincliffe Hill.
The couple have a long history in hospitality, starting at the Angler's Rest in Bamford before moving to the Hillsborough Suite at Sheffield Wednesday, which was at the time leased from the Mansfield Brewery.
But when the opportunity to take on the Omega came up, they jumped at the chance.
Pauline said: "We were looking for somewhere else to move the business into. We brought a lot of our customers here."
The venue acted as a mirror for Sheffield's changing fortunes through the decades.
"Looking back at old diaries, a lot of the functions were from firms that didn't exist five years later," said Pauline.
"We hosted sports and social clubs from companies like Neepsend Steels. Pubs had their dinners dances with us as well.
"As these firms declined it changed and we did and awful lot of Round Table and Rotary-type functions."
Another change was the move away from all-male parties, as women became bigger influences in the workplace and stayed at home less.
But today events are usually birthdays, weddings or anniversaries, which are less regular.
Pauline added: "It changes gradually but if you take a snapshot every 10 years you notice the change."
As news of the couple's plan to retire has spread, bookings have increased as people make sure they get one last lunch at the Omega.
There will no doubt be a few tears over the next 16 months, but plenty of great memories shared as well.
"The most overwhelming comment has been 'I'm going to have to have my funeral now'," joked Pauline.
"Someone suggested they should have them all early.
"Because it's not close, we are OK with it at the moment. If we had said this year, we would be panicking a bit.
"There will probably be a few tears nearer the time."
The couple published a book about the first 30 years of the Omega in 2010, with stories and recipes from chefs who worked in the kitchen.
The venue is well known around Sheffield, and was even a running punchline in a John Godber play that the couple saw at the Crucible.
"In the play they were having a 70th birthday party at the Vulcan Works. Everyone kept saying you should have gone to Baldwin's Omega," said Pauline.
"And every time they said it the audience burst out laughing. It felt like a bit of an accolade."
The couple have not decided what to do when they close the doors of the Omega for the final time. But they hope to be able to find new roles for their loyal staff.
Pauline said: "We have got staff that have been here for 20 or 30 years. It's not the kind of establishment where people come and go."
The Baldwins are still taking bookings until July 2018. Visit www.baldwinsomega.com or call 0114 255 1818.