THE first pint in a pub which was almost condemned to be bulldozed has been poured.
The Fox & Hounds in Denmead has opened its doors for the first time since almost £500,000 was raised by determined locals desperate to save the 150-year-old building from being turned into luxury housing.
Rob Stark is one of four directors of the community co-operative behind the ambitious plans to save the pub, in School Lane, Denmead.
They welcomed guests to the completely refurbished watering-hole yesterday, ahead of the grand opening to the public tomorrow.
Mr Stark said: ‘We’re very relieved and hugely proud of what we’ve achieved.
‘It’s taken two-and-a-half-years and when you look around you can see the results.
‘Everyone who’s been in so far has said they think it’s fantastic.
‘Three hundred people have invested and taken part in this project and I’m hugely, hugely proud of them.’
Drinkers got the chance to meet new landlords Steve Pratt and Angie Ryan for the first time.
The couple own the Eden bistro in Petersfield and have come on board with their chef son Damion.
Ms Ryan has spent years campaigning for a fairer deal for pubs and joined the battle to break the hold that tied pubs have over landlords. The Fox & Hounds is a free house.
She said: ‘We have always wanted a country pub and we had the White Hart in South Harting but that was tied and we wanted somewhere we didn’t have to deal with a pub company.
‘I’ve been part of the campaign to save local pubs.
‘Having this opportunity to get involved with something that the community put all their effort and all their heart and soul into is very special.
‘It’s a beautiful pub and the community has welcomed us with open arms.
‘We’re all investors and we’re all supporting each other.
‘Steve and I are hoping to build a community pub where local organisations come in to us, we want the social clubs back, and people to hold meetings here.
‘We want people to meet here for coffee, and high tea in the summer.’
To book a table or to find out more, go to foxandhounds-pub.co.uk.