AN independent fine wine merchant is extending its ‘wine experience’ for customers by opening a dedicated bar next door.

Whalley Wine Shop, which also sells spirits and craft beers, is expanding into the on-trade by taking over the former Barclays Bank next to the shop in King Street, Whalley.

Owner Tom Jones said: “2020 was supposed to be a year of celebration for The Whalley Wine Shop, as it was our 10th anniversary with loads of events and tastings planned.

“Covid struck and all our plans were shelved. However, this gave us the opportunity to look at our long-term strategy, and how we could add something new and exciting for customers and for Whalley.

“Right from the outset we tried to make a visit to The Whalley Wine Shop an experience, creating a buzz, by encouraging customers to taste new wines through our ‘by the glass’ sampling machine, to explore new wine varieties and new wine countries and to learn about food pairing.

“We found that our customers absolutely loved the ambience of tasting and drinking wine in the shop, but with over 1,000 different wines on display and often over 20 wines to taste, the shop was frequently packed and it became clear we needed more space.

“We recognised that customers were having to stand and drink wines in a retail environment and what we needed was a dedicated space that wasn’t a shop.

“When the Barclays next door closed it seemed the perfect solution.”

Mr Jones and his wife, Jen, did not take lightly the decision to open a hospitality venue in the midst of a global pandemic, with sleepless nights aplenty throughout the process.

He added: “We had many a sleepless night debating whether it was a brave or a foolhardy thing to do, but everyone I talked to said it was such a good location and the shop has an excellent reputation.

“So we signed the lease on the day that Boris Johnson locked down the country for the second time. Crazy or what?”

Recruiting staff could also have been very difficult for the couple, as many in the hospitality sector have left the industry to pursue other careers as a result of the pandemic - though Mr Jones said he’s been ‘lucky’ to recruit such a good team.

Every drink customers enjoy in the bar will be available for sale next door in the Wine Shop - as well as a ‘tasting vault’, showcasing the bar’s rarest and most valuable beverages.