Regulars at a popular pub in Aldershot are rallying to protect it from potential redevelopment after the landlady announced her intention to step down this Spring after six years in charge.
Garden Gate tenant Cally Brown, 35, will not renew her contract when it expires at the end of March, and there are fears brewery Greene King could decide to replace the Church Lane East pub with new housing or a convenience store.
The Beehive, in High Street, is also facing an uncertain future as Greene King confirmed this week that both pubs were ‘under review’. The brewery also owns the Queen Victoria pub, in Victoria Road.
A group of revellers known as the Friends of the Garden Gate have joined together aiming to protect the pub, and members held their first meeting last week.
They hope to persuade Rushmoor Borough Council to grant the pub, which has been trading for more than 150 years, the status of an Asset of Community Value and are now preparing an application.
The status means any sale of the building must be ‘paused’ to allow the community up to six months to develop a bid to buy it.
Miss Brown said she was leaving Aldershot to concentrate on other business ventures in Folkstone.
“It is hard work running the pub on my own and, to be honest, this year I have not really been making any money,” she said.
“I would be really sorry to see it go, though. People don’t want it to shut, they want it to stay as a pub.”
Friends spokesman Tim Howard, said: “It is a place where all ages mingle.
“The atmosphere is always friendly and, crucially, two other local pubs have closed in recent years.”
One of these, the Lord Campbell, in Alexandra Road, had its licence removed last July following police concerns, but was already due to be replaced with flats when the licence expired next month. The Queen’s Head, in North Lane was also sold by Enterprise Inns last July.
Garden Gate regular and Aldershot resident Barrie Dean, said: “I have been coming here for over 40 years and it is one massive extended family. The area would be much poorer if the pub was allowed to close.”
Dave Evans, a former teacher and charity worker from Ash, stressed the family nature of the pub saying three generations of his family had enjoyed a Christmas Day tipple there.
Jane McLintock MBE, also from Aldershot, added she would be ‘devastated’ if it ceased trading.
The pub is one of only two in Aldershot to be listed in The Good Beer Guide, produ-ced by CAMRA (the Cam-paign for Real Ale).
The Garden Gate has hosted a number of charity events over the years and more than £3,000 was raised during 2013. The pub also features music nights and craft fairs, and has even held a video games carnival and maths and jewellery-making lessons.
If the pub were to be declared an Asset of Community Value, the Friends group plan to form a co-operative and purchase the venue from Greene King to make it a free house.
Council chief executive Andrew Lloyd said any application for such status would be considered on its merits, but urged the group to contact Greene King directly to see if an agreement could be reached first.
He said: “For any business, if the demand isn’t there then it would be difficult to justify keeping it open. But if you’ve got the demand then it can be viable.”