Hoteliers who converted their restaurant into a gin distillery to help combat the effects of the coronavirus pandemic are looking forward to opening their brand new gin bar once lockdown restrictions ease.

Neil and Tracey Bullows, who have run the Whitehall Hotel in Darwen since 2003, found they had to innovate during the pandemic, and just before Christmas they diversified their business by converting the hotel's redundant kitchen area into an on-site spirits distillery.

This Is Lancashire: Peter WrightPeter Wright

With the help of friend Paul Sheerin, who owns Defiance Spirits based in Oldham, and experienced gin craftsman Peter Wright, they have so far launched three types of gin from their Whitehall Distillery.

Small batches of the distillery's aromatic signature gin, pink gin and a brand new orchard gin have been selling fast, with local designer Anthony Cottrell creating the labels, which feature the pattern from Oliver Cromwell’s lace, who stayed at Whitehall Cottage before the battle of Preston in 1648.

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Mr Wright said: “By the time Mother’s Day came around in March, we had just over 200 hundred bottles ready to sell, including 50 with a limited-edition label.

"We were absolutely bowled over with the support that we received and we sold all our stock within a few days.

"We only produce small batches of 55 bottles at a time and the process usually takes five days from start to finish. It’s a great team effort."

East Lancashire hotel owners to convert restaurant into gin distillery and bar

With the easing of restrictions coming into play on Monday, the Whitehall are planning to re-open for outdoor drinks, before welcoming customers inside from May 17.

And by June they hope to be ready to launch their new gin bar, complete with gin masterclasses and individual stills, so guests can make and craft their own gin.

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Mr Bullows said: "To say it has been a challenging year is an understatement, and we know we are not out of the woods just yet, but we certainly feel that there is a huge opportunity to regrow from here.

"There is so much development in the area and we are hoping to attract funding to create a gin experience which will benefit the Whitehall Hotel and be an envied attraction for Darwen.”