THE Martlet Inn, in Langford Budville, is re-opening on Monday, seven months after it was closed due to lockdown.

New landlords husband and wife Jon and Millie Coward are adding the 17th Century pub to their fast growing business portfolio.

They already run the Bear Inn, in Wiveliscombe, the Lamb and Flag, at Blagdon Hill, and Milverton Cricket Club.

Mrs Coward said that rather than let the coronavirus defeat them, they knew that they would have to change and emerge better.

She said: "We realised early on in the pandemic that we would need to adapt our businesses on quite a large scale in order to not only survive, but to grow and evolve.

"We needed to ride out the storm."

At the start of the lockdown in March they began offering takeaway hot meals from the Bear.

It quickly became so popular that the couple were able to bring the head chef and other members of staff back from furlough months before the pub actually re-opened fully.

Reacting to the recent controversy over free school meals, the Bear offered hot lunches to eligible children over half term, even delivering them in the surrounding area.

The couple then took a government bounce-back loan and invested in a mobile food van, The Hungry Bear, to reach out to communities that didn’t have a village pub or restaurant, so that they could offer high-quality hot food to those areas.

The response has been fantastic and they now have a regular route around the Somerset countryside.

The Hungry Bear has just secured a regular slot in Wellington High Street three times a week to provide high-quality food, using locally sourced ingredients.

The couple have also spent the lockdown improving their pubs, creating a Covid-safe outdoor bar at The Bear under a marquee, complete with log burners and sofas, so customers can stay warm outside in the fresh air.

They have also developed all-weather seating and extensive takeaway menus at their other venues.

The Bear also has its own brewery, producing local ales, including Goldihops and the popular winter-warming Polar Bear.

The couple are also in talks with local theatre groups and musicians about putting on performances to keep customers entertained.

Mrs Coward said: "We have the space to put on events, and musicians and actors need spaces, so we hope it works for everyone."

Mr Coward said: "We’re really happy to say that so far our efforts are paying off, and we’ve had incredible support from our lovely loyal customers.

"At this point in time we’ve managed to not only keep our staff, but have recruited more. We’re probably employing about 50 people in all now.

"As independent local businesses we believe that even through tough times like these, we can still thrive if we remain committed to looking after each other and continue to adapt to the new way of life that is emerging from this pandemic."