Dark Star Brewery will open the first site under its fledgling pub company early next year, after securing a former cocktail bar site in Haywards Heath, West Sussex, as part of plans to grow its estate to 20 sites in the next five years.

The group’s pub division, which is led by Heath Ball, has secured 41 The Broadway in the town that is will look to re-open under the name the Lockhart Tavern.

Ball told M&C: “”We’re really pleased to have found a site in Haywards Heath, alongside operators such as Cote and Cafe Rouge. We aim to bring a selection of the best craft beers from around the country, cask and keg, as well as a great wine and spirits list. It’s going to be a stunning site, one we plan to open in a few months after considerable investment in the property.”

M&C understands the company is close to securing a second site in the region.

The Haywards Heath site represents the first acquisition for the brewery under their new pub acquisition vehicle led by industry entrepreneur Ball and Dark Star director, James Cuthbertson.

The site derives its name from the Sussex County Lunatic Asylum (later called St Francis Hospital), where the superintendent was, for many years, Dr Lockhart Robertson, later Lord Chancellor’s Visitor.

Ball currently operates two sites in London - The Wenlock Arms in Hackney and the Red Lion and Sun, Highgate.

Dark Star currently has two pubs - a private lease of the Evening Star in Brighton and a lease with Enterprise Inns of their brewery tap, The Partridge in Partridge Green, close to the brewery. Both these sites will remain within the existing management structure at a local level.