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Regulars join campaign to stop Queen's Head pub demolition

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: December 13, 2012

  • A protest has been launched by staff and locals to stop the Queen's Head shutting

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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.

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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."

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  • Incedendo  |  December 21 2012, 12:41PM

    As the landlord of this pub, when I moved in last November I would totally agree with comments made that the pub was not viable, but since myself and my partner have been here we have at least doubled the turnover! got rid of the undesirables and made this a centre of the community once again ...... Many people I think are not aware of one big fact in the loss of so many pubs. This fact being pub companies like Spirit & Enterprise Inns are big, big PLC's (Public Limited Companies - Traded on the stock exchange) that our basically large property management companies with a secondary income coming from what is called the BEER TIE and have really only one goal, to make as much money as possible for the shareholders! The BEER TIE is probably the biggest cause of failed pubs in recent years! How this works ... I pay a sensible rent for my pub, but, I have to buy my beer, ciders and in some cases all other drinks from the pub company. I have to pay a premium for this! example I currently have to by a keg of carling at £129.55 + VAT (£155.46), the local wholesaler can sell me the same keg for £79.95 + VAT (£95.94) that's a difference of £49.60 ..... Now lets say the pub sells 10 kegs a week, that's 880 pints of carling! I have now paid an additional £496.00 to the pub company over what I would pay the local wholesaler or £25,792 per year and this is just on one product !!!!! we currently sell 7 different draft beers and ciders alone, not including bottled beers & ciders I mentioned in the article, I was narrowly outbid, my understanding just £30,000 as a privately owned independent pub (like wetherspoons), 1. I can be more competitive and 2. would have more money to invest in building my business. I would not have put a bid in for this site if I didn't think the business has no long term sustainability .... A lot of time and effort, plus many long days and nights go into running a good community pub and myself & my partner have many plans to develop this business, with hotel rooms and a new restaurant (good quality & good value) and plan on staying here till we retire, and that's at least another 25 years! It's not often I say this, but in our area we have lost the dry cleaners and funnily enough a general food store not more than 200 yards up the road! in the last year. Bargin Booze is right next door to us and at least half their customers visit the pub on a regular basis, Corel is just the other side of the bridge and they have commented that probably they would have to shut if the pub goes as most of their customers come from the pub. It is also my understanding that in the past decade or so there has been 2 failed attempts at a Farmfood type business within a couple of miles of the pub ..... I'd like to thank Becky for her efforts and thank all our customers that support us so well, I think for once it's time to make a stand, many food supermarkets, metro type places get built every year but when was the last time you saw a new built pub !!!!! Thanks to all : Sean & Linda

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  • Shaynerer  |  December 13 2012, 11:33AM

    Planners need to protect our pubs, once they're gone, they're gone, too many are being lost. In rural areas this is recognised and some authorities safeguard them. Suburban pubs are just as important and give older people and families a place to go for a night out without having to mix it with the vomiting, screeching town centre hordes in their vertical-drinking hellholes! There's a good catchment near that pub and no reason why it couldn't be very viable. Good luck with the campaign.

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