A BAR and restaurant devastated by a fire is gearing up to open its doors to customers - 15 months on.

A fire tore through the kitchen at the Three Pigeons Inn in Ruthin on June 10 2019.

With it being a Monday, the pub was closed. Owners Deborah Wilson-Henri, known as Debbie, and husband Paul Henri had gone to a friend’s house for a meal in Llanfair DC.

The starters had just been put on the table when a customer, who fortunately knew where the couple were, came to find Debbie and Henri announcing ‘your pub is on fire!’

Debbie said: “By the time we arrived at the pub there were three fire engines on site and the kitchen was destroyed. Fortunately the fire doors had held so it had not spread to the pub, but the whole building was thick with noxious smoke.

“We were devastated, everything that we had worked for and built up over the last nine years gone up in smoke.”

Debbie said what followed was a ‘nerve-racking’ five weeks.

“Our insurance company was investigating and not admitting liability,” she added.

“Eventually a forensic investigator determined that the cause of the blaze was tea towels.

"Apparently it is becoming quite a common thing as more and more kitchens use rapeseed oil. Cotton tea towels, even having been boil washed can retain some oil, which has a low ignition point, and then when tumble dried the heat reacting with the oil and oxygen in the air causes them to self ignite."

Denbighshire Free Press:

Debbie Wilson-Henri and Paul Henri

The couple, who have lived in the area for 21 years, have endured a battle with their insurance company.

Work eventually was able to start, albeit slowly, in January 2020 but when lockdown arrived - it again was halted

Debbie said: “We feel a little battle scarred to say the least.

“We hope to get the kitchen handed back to us on September 11 to re-open on September 18 with the best kitchen in the Vale of Clwyd.”

The fire, and the subsequent closure, has had a huge impact on the Debbie and Paul.

Debbie explained: "Not only watching out successful business struggle along, but letting our regular customers down - pensioners who rely on our senior service lunches, family weddings, birthdays and funerals, all those important life events that generations of local families have celebrated in the Pigeons.

"This also happening on top of losing our parents in the previous three years, myself contracting pneumonia and shattering my ankle in three places.

"The support from the locals and our regulars has been immense and we really would like to send a heartfelt thank you to them all."

In terms of the kitchen and works, the couple have spent about £70,000.

Denbighshire Free Press:

Damage to the kitchen. The kitchen has needed a complete re-build

"It has meant a complete rebuild," Debbie said.

"The restaurant has been redecorated but we have retained our original look.

"We have a new menu with some old favourites and some weekly changing specials depending on what is fresh.

"We can't wait to welcome customers back in."

Measures have been put in place in terms of social distancing but the venue has 'plenty of space' for diners between the restaurant, snug, bar and outside.

The Three Pigeons Inn has been awarded 'Good to Go' from Visit Wales and AA Covid confident certificate.

Debbie said: "Ironically, we have also just been awarded a Trip Advisor special award being voted in the top 10 per cent of restaurants in the world. We also have a special award from CAMRA for being in the Good Beer Guide for 10 consecutive years, and we are in the AA Good Pub Guide.

"We have always been at the heart of the community and want that to continue.

"Lots of local businesses rely on us from local holiday lets and B&B's to small local food suppliers and breweries.

"It is a symbiotic relationship so everyone is looking forward to us opening fully again."

Debbie said she and Paul originally purchased the Pigeons by accident.

She said: "I had always wanted to go into hospitality [Paul didn't]. I was an area manager in retail and Paul was a depot manager for Howdens Joinery.

"We were living in Llanfair DC and used to walk to the Pigeons for a drink as we always loved the place.

"Easter weekend in 2011 we decided to camp on the field with some friends to save the walk home. Late in the evening Paul was standing next to the previous owner, Jim, in the gents and blurted out 'We love your pub'. Jim said 'It's for sale', and the rest is history.

"We bought the place and moved in in October.

"We don't have any children, this place has been our baby."

Despite being their baby, Debbie and Paul have just agreed a sale of the business.

"It is with mixed feelings that we do this," Debbie said.

"We are both very sad to leave, but with what we have been through in the last few years, and particularly the fight we have had to get our beautiful building and business back again we feel that we will leave it in a really strong position for the new owners who are keen and excited and want to continue where we leave off."

Debbie has also been diagnosed with a minor heart condition.

Debbie added: "I have been advised to avoid stress.

"This has driven the decision to move on now."