WHEN restaurateur Mike Hales bought The Hawthorns in Blackrod back in March he had no idea he would have to wait until July to open its doors.

But Mike has now turned the enforced delay into a positive by bringing forward the venue’s refurbishment and looking to the future post-coronavirus after reopening this weekend.

“I’m hoping to get a bit of normality back in my life after the last 15 weeks,” said Mike, 45. “We completed the purchase of The Hawthorns two weeks before lockdown so we had only just taken over when coronavirus forced us into this great abyss.

“I had three other sites at the time so we had 90-odd staff we had to furlough and it was a very difficult time for everyone physically and mentally.”

Mike, who is originally from Breightmet, ensured the restaurant began to offer takeaways which he says helped start to bring in some cashflow.

“My original plan was to stay open, build up awareness of the venue and then close in September for a refurbishment and put my stamp on it,” he said.

“So many people don’t know we even exist so I want let people know we’ve got this gem here in Bolton.

“With lockdown happening we decided to bring the refurbishment forward so we could open with a brand new venue.

“The bar, the restaurant and function room have all had work as well as the terraces - we have a beautiful sweeping garden all around the property.”

Social distancing restrictions have made an impact, but Mike is confident the work he has carried out will give visitors the confidence to feel comfortable in their surroundings.

“The biggest hit we’ve taken is the wedding side of things,” he said. “But we do have this beautiful bar and restaurant and our first week of opening has felt pretty good.

“Obviously business is nowhere near what it should be, but I am confident it will get better. We just need people to know that we have reopened.

“We have a great team, but I am a chef and I’m pretty hands on. I took this place on because I wanted to get it up to scratch, but of course we have reopened in unprecedented times.

“Thankfully the people who came over the weekend have enjoyed it and said they felt confident.”

Mike added that he was keen to thank his staff throughout what has been a difficult period.

“Everyone has been paid and we have been having Zoom meetings to keep everyone’s spirits up,” he added. “We all had one goal and that was to get the business back open.”