A CAMPAIGNER says plans to turn a 180-year-old pub into an American barbecue steakhouse is the latest blow for the trade.

Blue’s Smokehouse hopes to open in the empty Red Lion building, in High Street, after it closed just before Christmas.

It became the second High Street pub to close in recent months, after The Bull – another historic hostelry – shut last summer.

Nick Boley, regional director of CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) South East, said: “We don’t support the closure of any pub and the conversion to a steak house is not particularly welcome.

“Our view would be slightly different if they were selling real ale or nice American craft beers – that would be a welcome development.” The new-look eaterie plans to serve American food including burgers, ribs, pulled pork and barbecue beans.

Mr Boley said: “One of the problems in Bracknell is with the ongoing regeneration footfall has dropped. I don’t think any pub has come up with an offering which will change the way things are going. There was a time when the Red Lion was serving good food and good beer, however pub companies have made it very difficult for pubs to survive.

“They have unrealistic expec- tations and charge too much rent, with projections way above a reasonable footfall.

“I believe there is still a market for pubs in Bracknell – there are about 100 members of CAMRA living there – but places have to run in a way the landlord wishes, and not being forced to pay harsh rents. It is a huge scandal the way pub companies are treating tenants and it is a death knell for pubs.

He added there remain a number of excellent pubs in the Bracknell area, though many tend to be in villages.

As part of the refurbishment, Blue’s Smokehouse has submitted plans to Bracknell Forest Council to extend the kitchen inside the Grade Two-listed building.

Carlos Maidana, director of the company, said: “We are very excited about coming to Bracknell. We hope to bring something a bit new and unique to the town.”