A petition launched to save the Rose and Thistle pub in Rockbourne has gained 951 signatures.

The owner of the pub, Chris, 30, said the pub has been consistently operating at a loss and he has been unable to find a buyer for two years, prompting him to explore the possibility of a change of use, in hopes of possibly finding a buyer who wishes to turn the building into a house.

Chris said: “We are now getting to the setting where opening our doors is costing us thousands of pounds per month.”

Chris, however, said his preference would still be for the building to remain a pub.

He said: “It’s not something we decided to do overnight. It’s not a decision we have made lightly. We’d love for it to stay a pub.”

The Rose and Thistle, affectionately known by locals as "the RAT", is a Grade II-listed, 16th-century building. Chris said it has been a pub since at least the 18th century.

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Salisbury Journal: Inside the Rose and Thistle in Rockbourne.Inside the Rose and Thistle in Rockbourne. (Image: Joshua Truksa/Newsquest)

Chris has operated the pub since 2014, winning multiple awards during that time, including the Acorn award in 2018 and Hampshire Historic Pub of the Year by the South England Prestige Awards 2021/22. He said covid, the cost-of-living crisis and cultural changes in how people socialise have taken a heavy toll on the entire pub industry and his pub has not been spared.

Chris said: “The numbers have not added up since 2020.

“All of our costs have gone up and our footfall has gone down.”

Chris sent out an email to villagers at the beginning of the week of Monday, May 13 explaining the measure of operating at reduced hours and a limited selection of pizzas instead of the previous full-service menu. The new hours of the pub will be 5pm to 9pm Wednesday through Friday, Saturday 12pm to 7pm and Sunday 12pm to 8.30pm.

Chris told the Journal: “I don’t want to close the doors. I just keep going back to the end of the month and looking at the numbers and we’ve lost thousands of pounds.”

Chris added that 85 per cent of the staff was made redundant on Monday, May 13.

The building was listed on RightMove for £600k in September, 2022, with the listing specifying the potential for change of use. A number of Rockbourne residents noticed the listed and set up an informal working group, Save the Rose and Thistle, to coordinate ideas and efforts to save the pub.

Graham Branagan, 55, has lived in Rockbourne for 17 years and said the financial difficulties the independent pub has faced were not known to the community before the launch of the petition.

Graham said: “I certainly didn’t know of his financial difficulties. The petition is not a complaint about Chris.”

Save the Rose and Thistle plans to officially incorporate as a group next week, with plans to quickly apply for the pub to be labelled an asset of community value (ACV). The group also plans to explore the different possibilities for preserving the pub, including it being operated as a community pub.