LAST orders have been called for a popular small pub in Portsmouth.
The Royal Marine Artillery Tavern in Cromwell Road, Eastney, has emptied the barrels for the final time, after the site was sold to a housing developer.
Regulars of the pub spent last night having one last drink and reminiscing. They called the closure a ‘great shame’ and said they were sad to see it go.
With landlord Kevin Smith pouring his final pint, he has taken the opportunity to speak out against chain franchises, saying that their interest is only in large venues, with small pubs falling to the wayside.
He said: ‘The pub has been bought out by developers, who are planning to convert the site into a block of flats.
‘This is something that has been ongoing for a year now, but with it being sold there wasn’t anything I could do.
These pubs closing is ripping the soul out of this city.Ade Cull
‘It was always going to happen sooner rather than later – I can’t blame the developers for wanting to get the most out of the site, but it hurts to see another small pub go.
‘The worst part of it all is that I didn’t get a say in what happened. Fuller’s had complete control and so sold the site themselves.
‘My fear is that they don’t care for small pubs like this, and will get rid of the rest of them as quickly as they can.
‘That’s the case with the big pub chains – if you can’t serve food then they aren’t interested in helping. All the old style pubs are on their way out now.’
Loyal customers who gathered at the pub were sad to say farewell to it.
Ade Cull, from Eastney, has been drinking at the pub for the past 20 years.
He said: ‘These pubs closing is ripping the soul out of this city. I am disgusted it is being sold for flats.
‘This is a great local pub and it is sad to see it close.
‘I celebrated my 50th and 60th birthdays here and it was somewhere to come after work and just chat to people. It is a huge shame.’
One of the things the RMA Tavern was known for was its music and Ade said he remembers listening to lots of great bands over the years.
Former captain of the pub’s pool team Leon Wright, from Southsea, agreed.
He added: ‘Some of my best memories are of the bands who played here.
‘It is gutting to see this pub close. When I moved to Portsmouth it is one of the first places I came to drink.’
Tyrone McGrath, from Cosham, used to drink at the pub when he lived in Southsea. Although he has not been there for a few years, he decided to have one last drink last night.
He said: ‘I remember coming here as a teenager on New Year’s Eve and always having a great night.
‘It is a huge loss to Eastney to see it close. It is very sad.’
Commenting on the closure of the pub, a spokesman for Fuller’s said: ‘Fuller’s had nearly 200 tenanted pubs and we look to help our tenants to open, develop and promote pubs that deliver the distinctive experience, including freshly cooked food, customers expect when they see the Fuller’s name.
‘As part of that goal, there were a number of sites, including The RMA Tavern, that were earmarked for sale.
‘We sold The RMA Tavern as a going concern to a private buyer around 12 months ago and, while we are sorry to hear it is no longer a pub, we cannot comment further as we are no longer the pub’s owners.’