EAST Lancashire’s original gastropub will close on Monday.

The Three Fishes in Mitton near Whalley will shut its doors for the last time at 11pm.

In 2004 Northcote’s Michelin-starred chef Nigel Haworth turned the village pub into a high-quality eating place as the first of his Ribble Valley Inns chain.

In May last year four of its five gastropubs – including the Three Fishes and the Clog and Billycock in Blackburn – were sold to pub restaurant chain Brunning and Price.

Now, less than a year later, the Chester-based group has taken the ‘difficult decision’ to shut the Three Fishes.

News of the closure dismayed Mr Haworth, Marketing Lancashire boss Tony Attard and Ribble Valley politicians led by MP Nigel Evans.

Brunning and Price said it had taken the decision because the inn was too close to its other food pub in Mitton The Aspinall Arms.

Mr Haworth said: “It’s very, very sad. It breaks my heart.

“It was an iconic pub. I hope somebody buys it and can rekindle it.”

The company hopes to deploy the staff at its other 70 locations, mainly in the North West and Wales, and is considering whether to sell the premises as a pub.

The Three Fishes was famous for its Lancashire hotpot using Mr Haworth’s Great British Menu-winning recipe.

Brunning and Price managing director Mary Willcock said: “After a period of review and some serious consideration we have taken the difficult decision to close the Three Fishes in Mitton on Tuesday May 7.

“Brunning and Price took over the collection of Ribble Valley Inns pubs in May of last year and have successfully refurbished and relaunched the The Highwayman, Kirkby Lonsdale, The Clog and Billycock, Blackburn, and The Bull at Broughton.

“Sadly, the decision has been made to close the Three Fishes and consider our options due to its close proximity to the successful Aspinall Arms, which is just a stone’s throw away in the same village.

“We would like to thank the team. We are thrilled many of the team will remain working for us in sister pubs. It isn’t currently on the market.”

Retiring Whalley councillor Terry Hill said: “This is very sad. It is wonderful building and rather special inn and eating place.

“I sincerely hope it can be sold as a pub and restaurant to another operator. This closure is a blow to the Ribble Valley as a tourist destination.”

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Mr Evans, president of the all-party Parliamentary Beer Group, said: “It is incredibly sad. The Three Fishes has a first-class restaurant where I have eaten many times.

“It seems as if the company bought out the competition.

“I hope they do not sell it with a restrictive covenant on its future use and that somebody else will buy and revive it."

Mr Attard said: “It was one of Lancashire’s best known gastropubs and a destination that introduced many visitors to Lancashire’s incredible food and drink producers.

“I hope this is an opportunity for another food and drink entrepreneur to build on what will always be a very special place for Lancashire food lovers.”

Ribble Valley council leader Stephen Atkinson said: “It’s very sad news. I hope that another operator will take it over.”

The pub’s team posted on Facebook yesterday: “We are sorry to announce that the Three Fishes will cease to trade at 11pm on Monday.

“For many staff and customers alike, this is an end of era and we would like thank you so much for all of your custom over the years; it’s been a pleasure to serve you."