CUSTOMERS packed the Wheatsheaf pub in Titchfield to celebrate its reopening.
More than 30 locals from the village surprised the new landlord of the pub in East Street by turning up outside just before the doors were opened.
As reported in The News, the Wheatsheaf was suddenly closed by owners County Caterers Ltd two weeks ago.
But now former manager Mark Brooks has reopened the popular community pub after taking out a lease.
Customers were thrilled to see it back in business.
Steph French, 26, from Southampton Hill in Titchfield, said it was a big shock when she heard the pub was closing.
‘We were devastated,’ she said.
‘We had to have a group meeting to discuss where we were going to drink.
‘So when Mark told us he was reopening it we were delighted.
‘We all wanted to be here to support him.
‘He’s always been so lovely and he’s a great manager. It’s a close-knit community.
‘It’s such a small pub, it’s great for locals. So many people fall in love with the place and come back again.’
Kirsten McQuitty, 48, from Hillson Drive in Fareham, has been drinking at the pub for the past five years.
She was the first customer through the door.
She added: ‘We were here on the Sunday before it shut.
‘We didn’t know anything about it.
‘We were all dumbfounded. We couldn’t believe it – the place looked as if it was doing well so we weren’t expecting it. When we heard it was going to reopen we all started smiling.
‘We were pleased it was Mark. He is one of the nicest people I have ever met. He’s a good guy and he deserves to do well.
‘It’s a nice friendly, cosy pub. The atmosphere is great.
‘I don’t think until you have lost your local you realise how much you liked it.’
Mr Brooks said he was relieved the pub – which has won plaudits from the Campaign for Real Ale – was up and running again. ‘I didn’t know it was all going to happen quite like this,’ he said.
‘It was absolutely fantastic. I knew I would have some support but that was brilliant. We had a good night, they stayed right the way through to the end.
‘It’s very reassuring that I have got that support from people who use the pub.’