Work has begun on the demolition of an historic city pub as part of a revamp at the main entrance to Chester Racecourse.
The Watergate Inn will be replaced with a new public entrance to the County enclosure through a landscaped and canopied walkway within a pedestrianised Watergate Square.
Demolition is underway after a planning application was approved last month.
In addition, offices vacated when the race company relocated to the nearby HQ building will be transformed into new customer amenities including a bar open all year round.
These improvements will be completed in advance of the first meeting of Chester’s 2018 season on Wednesday, May 9.
And the changes are linked to a £50m masterplan that will deliver a conference centre for up to 1,000 people plus a brand new grandstand in place of the Leverhulme Stand.
Holiday Inn Express will be extended by 30-40 rooms. And most hotel car parking will relocated to a three-level multi-storey on the other side of the railway line but accessible through the arches.
The vision aims to enhance the racing experience and improve the Roodee’s all-year round appeal – allowing Chester to compete with Liverpool and Manchester.
Frank Marnell and his wife Paula ran The Watergate Inn for 25 years, literally on the doorstep of the popular racing venue until April 2017.
The couple left to set up home in Connah’s Quay after selling the lease to Chester Race Company who had previously bought the building from Enterprise Inns.
Frank, who was happy to sell, would nevertheless have preferred the pub’s facade was retained.
Speaking before the demolition plan was confirmed, he said: “I would rather something stayed there. It’s an old building. It’s got a lot of history. I remember being contacted by an Australian man years ago with reference to his mother and father in 1900 and I sent him a photo of it and he was made up. I also sent him one of my Watergate ties.
“It’s not just The Watergate. Every pub that closes down at the moment is either going to be knocked down or made into something else. There are still people of an age who want to go into an ordinary type pub, but unfortunately there are very few of them left.”
Frank, secretary of the Licensed Victuallers Association and chairman of Chester Pubwatch, is now a business partner in a new café-bar venture at The Groves.