PATRONS at a popular town centre pub are battling to stop it being converted into a “sports bar”.

The Old White Lion is to be transformed in the New Year after its landlady was told that her lease from the brewery will not be renewed.

Dating back to the 19th century the Bolton Street pub has been slaking the thirst of drinkers in the town for over a hundred years. 

It was recently awarded listed status and its distinctive decor has even landed it a spot on the Campaign for Real Ale’s National Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors.

However after 26 years at the helm landlady Joan Farrand’s tenure is to come to an emotional end on January 7.

It will the be taken over by Craft Union Pub Company, a subsidiary of the site’s owner, Enterprise Inns, whose plans have been met by “dismay” from regulars. 

The punters have now set up a campaign to prevent the changes — which they describe as a sports bar — drawing up a petition asking the brewery to reconsider its plans, which has received more than 300 signatures.

It says: “The Old White Lion as we know it will soon be gone forever.

“Enterprise Inns are gifting custody to one of their subsidiary companies Craft Union, who are attempting to turn it into yet another sports bar.

“The Lion has been the cornerstone of live entertainment, group meetings and memories in Bury town centre for 25 years. 

“We are appealing to Enterprise Inns to listen to what the customers want. We have enough sports bars in Bury. We NEED to keep our pub alive.

"We understand times change. We understand a refurb is needed. But all we want is to be heard and to have our say on the future of an iconic Bury landmark.”

Their efforts have also been bolstered by Bury North MP James Frith who named the Old White Lion his Parliamentary Pub of the Year and nominated it for the national competition.

In addition to meeting with campaigners, Mr Frith has also written to the pub’s owners inviting them to meet and hear the concerns of customers so that they “love about the Old White Lion is kept and protected”. 

He said: “Too much recently of what we cherish in Bury is under threat of closure or being lost.

“ I take very seriously the concerns of loyal locals who want a proper pub for a proper pint to stay that way and not fall victim to a Midlands based sports marketing department. 

“I’ve got the locals’ back and will suggest I host a roundtable with the brewery and locals to put everyone on the same page, or beer mat perhaps.”

However in their response to Mr Frith the brewery refuted that the pub will be converted to a sports bar and say they “value of the pub as a community local and are looking to invest and enhance the business for the community”.

A spokesperson for Craft Union Pub Company said: “We are delighted to confirm that we’ll be taking over the White Lion, Bury at the lease expiry date in January 2020. 

“The site will benefit from a healthy refurbishment, still maintaining its character and atmosphere, whilst adding a fantastic entertainment service.

“We believe that the British pub plays a vital role in the lives of its customers and our philosophy at Craft Union is to put brilliant pubs back at the heart of local communities. 

“We are committed to nurturing this by investing in the site, ensuring that we retain the tradition and the heritage alongside improving the quality of the community offer.”