MAJOR refurbishment work costing almost half-a-million pounds is continuing at the Big Lock though an Easter opening now seems unlikely with pubs closed due to Covid-19.

The Middlewich venue is being transformed into a family and dog friendly village pub with a canalside café, called The Little Lock Coffee Shop.

The £480,000 investment is creating 16 new jobs.

A spokesman for Priory Inns said:"Work is currently progressing on site at The Big Lock. Clearly the opening date will depend on any changes to current Government guidelines regarding visiting pubs and if we need to delay opening we will.

" Priory Inns is very much looking forward to showing Middlewich residents their fantastic family and dog friendly revamped local and new canalside cafe in due course.”

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Entertainment will be a key feature when the Big Lock re-opens with acoustic music featured on Fridays, live bands on Saturdays and there will be a weekly pub quiz. Sky and BT Sports will also be available.

Licensee Neil Sparkes said:“The location of The Big Lock is fantastic. It’s important to us that it meets the needs of the local community whether that’s a place to have coffee and cake while walking the dog on the Middlewich Waterside Trail, somewhere for boaters to have dinner, or a great friendly local at the heart of the community where you can meet friends and family to watch sport, participate in a quiz or have Sunday lunch.

"The canalside location of The Big Lock is an ideal place for walkers to stop for coffee and cake or boaters to have dinner.

“The new manager Darren Barton is looking forward to opening in time for Easter and giving Middlewich a great top quality local and café that residents can be proud of.”

The building project is a joint venture between Star Pubs & Bars and new north west based operators, Priory Inns North West.

The first floor is being opened up to create a more spacious open plan bar, snug and dining area with new floor to ceiling glazed sliding doors to allow diners to enjoy the pub’s canalside location.

A new rustic timber clad bar and back bar with room for a wide selection of premium spirits and cocktails will be centre stage.

The interior will be decorated in muted olives and creams with upholstered booth style seating in the snug area and an eclectic mix of wooden and upholstered chairs in the bar and dining areas.

Customers will be able to eat and drink anywhere in the 120-seater pub and dogs will be welcome throughout.

The cafe downstairs will feature a wall of floor to ceiling glazed sliding doors to create a brighter indoor space with seating for 40. It will have its own toilets and will be available to hire for private functions.

Outside there will be seating for 48 beside the canal and a further 48 at the front of the pub.

The Little Lock Coffee Shop will have seats beside the canal and at the front of the pub

New planters with plants, mood lighting and festoon lights will all add to the venue’s ambience in the evening.

The Big Lock will also benefit from an external redecoration with a partial cream render and timber painted in grey.

Top quality freshly cooked pub classics such as fish and fresh cut chunky chips, lamb hot pot and the speciality steak stones will be served as well as Sunday lunch with meat sourced locally.

In addition to a children’s menu, there will also be a dog-friendly menu which will include a special Sunday roast.

Drinks will include premium draught lagers and ciders, an extensive range of 40 gins, wines for all budgets and a selection of cocktails.

The coffee shop will serve teas, coffees, hot chocolates, afternoon tea, snacks and cakes to eat in or take away and ice-creams in the summer.

Andrew Jamieson, Star Pubs & Bars business development manager said: “Priory Inns Northwest are an impressive very well-run business with pubs rooted in the local communities where they are located.

"The Big Lock has had a number of different licensees over the last few years so we’re delighted that operators of this calibre are going to take The Big Lock forward.

“Heineken invested £50 million in pubs like The Big Lock last year to help them keep pace with peoples’ changing needs and expectations so that they can thrive for the long term.”