AN ESTABLISHED and historic Christchurch watering hole could be set for a period of closure as the search goes on for a new publican.

The Ship in Distress in Stanpit is currently operating on reduced opening hours while the long-serving tenant Maggie Wheeler serves her notice period over the next few weeks.

However, an advert seeking applications for a new tenant to take over the pub on a "retail contract" is posted outside of the building and online.

The site is owned by nationwide pub and bar operator Punch Taverns, who lease around 1,300 pubs across the United Kingdom.

The listing on their website says the “traditional Dorset pub” could be in line for investment and refurbishment, with specific details yet to be confirmed.

It also says: “This pub offers great facilities with a good size central bar area which offers plenty of back bar display.

“The pub has a welcoming feature wood burner in the main bar making it really cosy on cooler days and evenings.

“There is also a defined dining area (50 covers). The pub also offers a beer garden and parking for up to 12 cars.”

Current revised opening hours at the pub see it closed on Mondays, open from 3pm to 9pm on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday and from 3pm to 10pm on Friday and Saturday.

The premises is no longer accepting card, with cash only payment since May 29.

Punch Taverns said they are in the middle of an active recruitment process to bring in a new publican.

A spokesperson for the firm said: ‘The publican is currently working their notice period and due to their tenancy agreement, it is at their discretion as to the opening hours that they operate.

“Punch are actively recruiting for a new publican for the outlet and we endeavour to reopen the pub as soon as possible. We are also considering refurbishing the outlet in the future.”

The Ship in Distress dates back more than 300 years and the pub is steeped in smuggling history. It has also featured in many films and literature.

In 2015, the pub was forced into a period of closure due to a tumble dryer fire which nearly destroyed the whole building.

Ms Wheeler has held the lease of the pub since 2006, having previously managed its restaurant for 10 years.

The nearby Ye Olde Starre Inne in Purewell remains closed.