HUNDREDS of people have joined a fight to save one of Exeter's most popular community pubs from being bulldozed.
A protest has been launched by staff and locals to stop the Queen's Head - a pub that has stood on Pinhoe Road near Polsloe bridge since 1930 - calling last orders for the final time.
The owners, the Spirit pub company, recently put the pub up for sale in a silent auction, which was won by the frozen food retailer Farm Foods. A planning application has now been submitted to demolish the pub and build a store on the site.
But generations of regulars at the Queen's Head said they will fight to the bitter end to stop their pub being added to the estimated 80 that have closed in Exeter and East Devon according to CAMRA in recent years.
Exeter as a city centre has survived better than some but in the suburbs and on the outskirts of the city, without the same vibrant student population and the passing shopping trade to rely on, the crunch is being well and truly felt.
In place of pubs are cafes, restaurants, private homes and car parks, while others remain boarded-up, waiting for either an unlikely revival or for planning permission to be granted for a change use.
Yet the couple who manage the Queen's Head Linda Bassett and Sean Martin, who were narrowly outbid in the silent auction, say it remains a popular and profitable venue - one which they still want to take on should planning permission be refused.
"We are ready and able to expand the hotel and restaurant facilities and could end up employing up to 20 local people," said Mr Martin.
"We are leaving the campaign to the locals as there could be in a conflict of interest but keeping it as a pub is without question a viable option and one we would still be happy to do.
"The figures stack up and it will be a big loss to everyone if it goes."
The announcement has devastated locals who said it would rip the heart out of the community. More than 500 people have already joined a group on Facebook in support of the campaign and in just a few hours several hundred names have already been collected on a petition. A protest is being planned outside the pub between 3-4pm this Saturday.
Rebecca Hicks, who works behind the bar and is co-ordinating the campaign, said: "Thee is something for everyone here. From live bands and karaoke to all the stuff for kids.
"There are enough sites to put a Farm Foods where you would not need to flatten a piece of history that is 82 years old.
"We will be heard and fight this until we are blue in the face. We will fight for our pub."
Regular Christian Scott Lee said: "This is more than a pub - it is a community centre, a village hall and is like the Samaritans at times.
"We are like one big family and there is no hassle here at all. The pub has been open for 82 years and there are a lot of the locals who have been sitting on the same seats for 40 years.
"The first time I came in here I wondered how would they receive me. But I was made to feel so welcome. Everyone is accepted in this place."
Claire Mcintosh added: "It was devastating news for everyone. It is absolutely disgusting. This place has to stay. Enough pubs are closing down anyway but you don't want to lose a good pub - and this is a good pub.
"Everyone has made so many friends and it is a place for young and old and people from all walks of life. If they take away the pub, they are taking the heart out of the community." Michael Goodman, 66, has been drinking at the pub for more than 40 years.
He said: "It is a real community pub and I can not understand why this is happening. This pub is a legend of Exeter."
Andy and Tina Cole of nearby Bargain Booze said: "Three generations of the family drink here and we have been coming for 20 years. It is a real community pub where we all meet. If it closes there is no-where else like it and everyone will just go their own way."