UP to 20 jobs are at risk following the decision of whiskey company William Grant to close the Tullamore DEW visitor centre in the town.

Staff were told of the impending closure this evening and it is understood that there may be some possibilities for redeployment elsewhere in the company.

Local sources say William Grant intend to open a new tourist facility in the distillery on the Tullamore bypass.

While confirmation of the decision is not expected from William Grant until Wednesday, local politicians have said work must begin immediately on finding an alternative use for the building on Bury Quay.

It was leased by Offaly County Council to William Grant and the whiskey company then invested significantly by converting it to a visitor centre which attracted 40,000 people each year.

Offaly Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen said the closure was coming as a huge disappointment and his first thoughts were with the staff.

He said the detail of the lease now needed to be addressed and options explored, including the possibility of holding a competition to offer the building for some other commercial use and he hoped Tullamore DEW would "not be in the way of that".

Local councillor Tony McCormack, described the closure as a "huge shock" but said he could understand the economic rationale behind it at a time when there were few tourists coming to Ireland and if the company believed a move to the distillery would benefit Tullamore DEW in the longer run.