A WIRRAL pub is set to expand even though the current coronavirus lockdown has forced it to shut its doors.
The Black Toad in Hoylake has submitted plans to take over the site of a former stationery shop to provide extra outdoor seating.
The plans, sent to Wirral Council, could be crucial to the pub's chances of successfully opening once rules on the hospitality sector are relaxed by the government, something which could happen as soon as July 4.
Robin Jackson, who co-owns the pub with his partner Shell Ellis, said The Black Toad can normally fit around 40 people inside and a further 20 or so in the beer garden at the back of the pub.
But those numbers could be vastly reduced when the pub reopens in order to ensure social distancing is possible.
The proposed outdoor seating at the front of the pub will have capacity for a further 20-30 people.
While this capacity may also have to be reduced to respect social distancing, the possibility of having more outdoor space at the pub will be a huge boost to Mr Jackson, who admits he is worried about the plight his sector currently faces.
Mr Jackson had planned this expansion before the lockdown after the owners of the stationery shop moved out and he said he decided to stick to his guns and go through with it despite the huge uncertainty in the economy.
He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: "It is the perfect opportunity to increase capacity.
"This outdoor space at the front, combined with the garden at the back, can help us to do social distancing.
"We're just waiting to hear what they [the government] say. To take on the extra space at this time is a risk, but we’re going to plug on and do our best."
The space is particularly important to The Black Toad as it is a micro-pub.
The Black Toad is currently operating a 'bottle shop', which sells the pub's drinks on a takeaway or delivery basis, but that is a small consolation for a business which cannot perform its primary function as a pub.
Considering how The Black Toad might operate in the new world of social distancing, Mr Jackson said it will depend on advice from the government.
However, he said one idea would be to ensure all tables are kept two metres apart and open an entrance to the back garden to create a one-way walking route around the pub.
Steps such as this would mean customers might not have to enter the indoor space of the pub at any point.
While he had fears for the future, Mr Jackson remained upbeat and was proud of his pub’s reputation for craft beer and its use of beers brewed locally and in surrounding parts of Merseyside and North Wales.
He saw his pub as creating a “chilled out vibe” as it rejected the use of big TVs for sports fixtures and did not play loud music.
Mr Jackson must now wait for Wirral Council to accept or decline his application.