The buildings formerly home to the Hawkins of Hitchin department store have stood empty since 2018, leaving many of the town's residents asking: what will become of them?

Hawkins was an institution of Hitchin life for 155 years, but it closed it doors for the final time on January 18, 2018, after being passed down through five generations of Hawkins family.

The business expanded over the years and at the time of its closure, stretching from 2 to 8 Bucklersbury and leaving big town centre units to fill.

A planning application to split the site into eight units was approved, but they have been standing vacant for more than five years.

It appears new tenants could be moving in very soon though, with work taking place at the site and applications for approved by North Herts Council.

8 Bucklersbury - tasting room and off-licence

A planning application has been approved to turn 8 Bucklersbury into a tasting room and off-licence.

The Comet: Floor plans for the tasting room in Bucklersbury.Floor plans for the tasting room in Bucklersbury. (Image: North Herts Council)

The application was made by Owain Rhys under the company name Syched Ltd, with plans revealing that a bar will be installed in the long narrow unit with plenty of seating provided.

Proposed plans were submitted in November last year, before being approved on March 13 this year.

"This application is for a change of use of the ground floor of 8 Bucklersbury only, in order to meet local demand for use as a craft beer tasting room," reads a planning statement.

"The external appearance of the premises will remain unaltered and no architectural alterations will be carried out as part of this change of use.

"Syched Ltd will serve as an asset to the town centre of Hitchin as an attractive, accessible
and responsible retail venue."

Proposed opening hours for the tasting room would be 12pm to 11pm Monday through Thursday and on Sunday, with hours extended from 12pm to 12am on Friday and Saturday.

6 Bucklersbury - cocktail bar

Back in 2021, an application was granted for a cocktail bar at 6 Bucklersbury.

The plans were submitted by Chris Dodd of Bridgetown Monroe, "an already established, well-known mobile bar with a huge fan base nationwide for creating amazing cocktails and drinks", according to a planning statement.

The Comet: Plans for the cocktail bar in Bucklersbury.Plans for the cocktail bar in Bucklersbury. (Image: North Herts Council)

The bar would create around 12 jobs, and have a "Cuban Tiki" theme.

"We know Hitchin needs a bar like ours," the planning statement continued. 

"Bucklersbury is the main road for drink and food, and there is nothing like our bar in Hitchin that caters particularly in the style, the cocktails and the atmosphere. We will be unique and exciting.

"This will be a casual bar, for locals to sit back, relax, enjoy really nice, well priced drinks and have the occasional dance with their partner or friends.

"There will be warm Caribbean patties sourced locally and cooked off site and kept in a professional warming oven on site to serve as the customer order.

"This is the only food we will offer. No hot food will be cooked on the premises."

6 and 8 Bucklersbury - studio flats

Permission has also been granted to turn space above the retail units into studio flats.

As part of the plans submitted by Sarav Ltd, a two-bed flat will be converted into two apartments, while a three-bed flat above will be split into two studios.