A popular couple from the Wigan pub trade have transformed an historic hotel into a smart modern bar and eatery for their latest project.
Forbes on the Lane opened recently in the building previously known as the Bel Air on Wigan Lane close to the Cherry Gardens roundabout.
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In charge at the newly-restored premises are Russell Jervis and Rene Heyes, who previously ran the Boar’s Head pub for a decade and have brought most of their established staff on the short journey with them.
Six months of hard work has gone into turning around the fortunes of the Edwardian building, which had been empty for some time.
The bar and dining room downstairs is now receiving customers to sample the British food menu, tapas plates and drinks including large selections of wines, cocktails and gins.
Russell and Rene also intend to keep the place’s tradition going of being a hotel as well, with plans for 10 rooms to be refurbished for letting out once the next project of an outdoor seating area has been completed.
Russell says the chance to try an establishment like Forbes ... whose name comes from his original surname, was too good to pass up.
He said: “What appealed to us was the opportunity to buy here rather than renting a pub and having a place for us to own.
“This is a fresh start for this building. We want something completely different to what it has been in the past.
“The Boar’s Head was a very traditional pub but this has really opened our eyes to what we can try to do.”
Rene added: “We knew we were taking a lot on but it’s in a fantastic location on the lane. We want to create a community hub for all the residents in the area.”
The team of five employees is also enjoying settling into the new surroundings.
Russell said: “Before we opened they were getting the paintbrushes out and helping us transform the building right from the beginning.
“They have a lot of pride in what they have done.”
Forbes on the Lane will open for breakfast, brunches, lunch, afternoon tea, sharing plates whenever customers feel peckish and the formal menu.
The interior furnishings and colour scheme has been devised by the Laura Ashley Design Service, who were also instructed to preserve as many original features as possible.
Another initiative in the bar is the decision to offer the entire menu of wines, prosecco and champagne in glasses as well as by the full bottle.
Russell says the response to the renovation and the first days of opening has been very encouraging.
He said: “People have been very positive, it has been very good. The neighbours have been very nice.”
The most ambitious part of Russell and Rene’s vision for Forbes on the Lane is the opening of the bedrooms upstairs for guests.
However, they are confident this side of the business will also thrive in time.
Rene said: “At first we weren’t going to do the hotel side but through research we’ve found out that there’s a real need for hotel rooms in the Wigan area.
“There’s a shortage, especially close to the hospital. Our location is ideal for that.
“We’re also on the way down to the DW Stadium for the rugby and football and we’ve been approached by the jazz festival about providing somewhere to stay.”
Russell and Rene also support local charities, with their main beneficiary being Dr Naqvi’s Heartbeat Appeal, and took advice on the business from popular Wigan entrepreneur Howard Gallimore.