Villagers are fuming over plans to turn their favourite pub into an Indian restaurant.
More than 400 people have signed a petition demanding the Oliver Cromwell pub at St Edith’s Marsh remains a community pub and does not become a curry house.
Manager Tony Okun started the petition when he realised his days at the pub might be numbered as owners Enterprise Inns were looking for a new tenant.
He said: “I have only been here a few months but in that time we have really started to turn the place around and attract a lot more customers. We really want to stay here but can’t afford the sort of money Enterprise want for the lease.
“Everyone I have spoken to wants the pub to remain a pub and not an Indian restaurant.”
Mr Okun, who runs the pub with his wife Beverley and son Christian, was shocked last week when some Indian people arrived unannounced and started to look around the pub with an architect.
He said: “I had no idea they were coming. This pub has beautiful views and lots of history and needs to remain a local community pub.”
Mr Okun has introduced pensioners’ lunches and these have proved very popular. He also has plans for family fun days and if given the chance to stay wants to encourage darts and pool teams.
Regular Tony Powney, 73, said: “I grew up just down the road from the pub and I think it would be a dreadful shame if it became an Indian restaurant rather than a pub for locals. It would not reflect the history of the pub at all.”
Sheila Lee, 79, of Rowde, said she realised that the pub is not always busy and it needs to attract more people on some evenings but said Mr Okun had lots of good ideas.
She said: “We already have enough Indian restaurants in Devizes, Calne and Chippenham, we do not need another one here.”
But Alan Walters, landlord of The Crown at Aldbourne and the temporary lease holder of the Oliver Cromwell, said he could understand why Enterprise Inns needs to find new people to take it on.
He said: “I put Tony in as manager but he knew it was only a temporary position.
“He is doing a good job there but he would find it very hard to make it work from a business point of view. I know some Indian people have been looking at the pub.”
A spokesman for Enterprise Inns said: “We can confirm that the Oliver Cromwell is currently being marketed and we are in early stages of discussion with a number of parties who are interested in taking on this great community pub.”