A COUPLE who run a pub and a social club say they have the right recipe to make a success of a former Bolton restaurant which was wrecked by squatters.

The Crofters Hotel, at the junction of Chorley Street and St George’s Road, has opened again as Smudge’s, a free house combining a traditional local with real ales and an English-style restaurant.

The new lease of life is courtesy of licensees Jane McDonald and her partner, Frank Smith, who already run The Howcroft in Pool Street and the Reform Club, in Halliwell Road, known locally as the Roundhouse.

They spent six months refurbishing the building, which had been occupied and severely damaged by squatters who ripped out all the copper piping and damaged the toilets.

Floorboards were also ripped up and sinks damaged but the original tiling, decorated plaster ceilings, dark wooden oak panelling and most of the etched glass was left untouched.

Mrs McDonald rescued The Howcroft from closure in January and has restored it to its former glory.

Mr Smith will take on the day to day running of Smudge’s — which takes its name from his own nickname.

Both are undaunted by opening a pub restaurant in the teeth of a recession and when many pubs are closing because pub companies can’t get enough tenants to run them.

Mrs McDonald said: “It is daunting but every recession has got to end and we will be offering up to eight real ales plus a good value English menu which we hope will attract people to Smudge’s.

“We have already got several functions, including a wedding reception, booked for the function room and we anticipate many people will come because of Frank’s reputation.”

She added: “We like the traditional style of the pub and that’s why we went for The Howcroft. Frank used to play in the basement of The Crofters when he was a kid and it was always his dream to run this pub.”

Mr Smith, aged 66, said: “I reckon we have spent around £30,000 repairing and refurbishing the building as it was a right mess after the squatters left.

“They had ripped out all the copper piping, even from behind the bar and we have also had to replace around 400 lightbulbs.”

The couple have attracted Greek chef Dimitri Gatis, who used to run a restaurant in Dunscar.

The pub has had several identities, spending many years as The Crofters Hotel, then renamed Magees, followed by a period of closure until, in the 1990s, it got a new lease of life as Gallaghers Oyster bar, later reappearing as the Oystercatcher.

Following the demise of that bar, it became The Conquistador tapas eaterie and the last reincarnation of the building was as the Moghul’s Palace Indian restaurant before that too bit the dust.

l The history of The Crofters Hotel stretches back to 1800 when it was sometimes listed as The Whisters Arms and, in the 1870s, was listed as being owned by James Deakin of The Manchester Brewery Company, until it was acquired by Bolton Corporation who sold it on to Magees Brewery.