A LANDLADY and landlord who took the opportunity to redecorate their beer garden during lockdown have been proudly showing off their handiwork since lockdown was lifted.

Adrian McNicholas and landlady Dawn McNicholas decided to revamp the beer garden at The Sunny Hill on Victoria Road, Whitehaven, to create a comfortable space for regulars to enjoy the sport on an outside 85-inch TV they have installed.

They are really happy with what they have achieved. Dawn said: “It is very spacious and dog-friendly too, and you can eat out or just have a nice relaxing drink. We also installed an outside 85inch tv for all our sporting action.” The Sunny hill gets a good following for football, rugby and boxing.

All their regulars think the beer garden is a beautiful addition to the pub.

Dawn said: “We sponsor the local Whitehaven Rugby Union Club team on an annual basis, our pub name is on all their kits and also sponsor the Whitehaven Amateurs Girls under 14s football team. With our name also on their kits.”

The couple completely transformed The Sunny Hill when they moved in 10 years ago and turned it into a modern family-friendly pub with its own indoor children’s soft play area – currently still closed due to Covid-19.

Dawn said: “It was unrecognisable afterwards. We are still enormously proud of what we have achieved, especially as the pub was boarded up when we first viewed it.”

She said it is hundreds of years old and was formerly known as the Sunnyhill Hotel.

The industry has been hit hard by the Covid outbreak and Adrian and Dawn still had to pay 100 per cent of the rent for April May and June, despite the building being closed.

However, they are happy to begin trading again and have been rushed off their feet since they reopened.

Dawn said she has a fantastic bunch of staff and runs the pub with manager Wendy Rae, who has been with them since the first day. She wanted to publicly thank staff and said: “Wendy has been with us since the first day and continues to be the backbone of the pub. And Scott has been with us nine years, he is passionate about his job and ensures all food is the best pub food you can get.”

Delicious food options are available by head chef Scott Smith and the food is really popular, especially with the introduction of the government's Eat Out To Help Out scheme which came in this week.

Dawn said: “Our sizzling chicken Fajitas are extremely popular with the adults! But I’d say were most well known for our Sunday carveries. These have been going since 2010 and in our busiest periods we have done over 400 in one day! We still have a good Sunday trade the reason being, in my opinion, is the fact we use a local veg man. All veg is bought in fresh and prepped by us, including the mash and roast potatoes. The meats – normally beef, turkey and ham – are roasted overnight so are tender and moist.”

Dawn added that the help yourself facility is popular with customers. She said: “The fact the customers can help themselves to the veg and potatoes is a winner.”

The pub caters for all types of customers including gluten-free, dairy-free and vegetarians. They also do steak nights every Wednesday which include 16oz T-bones.

Gin is a popular tipple in the pub at the moment, but people are still enjoying a good chilled NZ Marlborough sauvignon blanc – which is also Dawn’s favourite! “We sell a lot of beers including John Smiths and Wainwrights Real Ale. Our premium lagers are also big hits,” she added.

They are not looking to book any entertainment for the foreseeable future due to covid rules but normally would have local singers and bands on every other month and most weekends in December.

Dawn said: “We have been in the pub trade since 1994 starting at the Robin Hood at Bowthorn, Cleator Moor. I was 19 and as the youngest landlady Scottish & Newcastle Brewery had ever had.

"We stayed there until 1999 then we ran the Whittington Cat in Whitehaven town centre until 2012 when we left to dedicate 100 per cent of our time to the Sunny Hill – where we still are!

“I have been a barmaid since I was 16 years old and love it as much now at 46 as I did then.

"The best thing about running a pub is undoubtedly the people that come in. We love meeting and talking to new customers from all over the country – our regulars are always up for a good craic and laugh, and we would be nothing without them. They are our bread and butter!"