PUB regulars are concerned for the future of their traditional town centre pub.

Many fear The Balmoral, on Bradshawgate, could lose its unique identity and be turned into a sports bar, but Ei Group - formerly known as Enterprise Inns - has said that this will not be the case.

However, landlady Anita Kirkman said she has been told the lease will not be renewed and the pub will be closed in the summer for refurbishments.

Mrs Kirkman has been at the pub for eight years - the first four as a barmaid.

She said: “It’s a very welcoming and real character pub, with a vault, a lounge and a main room.

“Me and my husband David live over the pub and we’re very hands-on. Like the customers, it’s a home from home for us.”

She said that in the past, The Balmoral has had its problems, but under her leadership it has become a “safe” pub.

In fact, in the last two years Mrs Kirkman has twice won awards in the Best Bar None accreditation scheme. This is a national awards supported by the Home Office and the drinks industry which is aimed primarily at promoting responsible management and operation of alcohol licensed premises.

Mrs Kirkman said: “I’ll be going to a pub in Farnworth when the lease is up but it’s the customers I feel sorry for.”

Karl Daley, 51,a customer for a quarter-of-a-century, said: “I come here for the atmosphere, you get talking with people from all different age groups. It’s a traditional pub and there’s not many like this left.”

Peter Black, 71, who has been drinking at The Balmoral for more than 40 years, said: “For me, it’s all about the people. Everyone knows everyone in here.”

“It’s another part of Bolton’s history that is being eroded,” said Brian Williamson, 57, another regular who has been going into the pub for decades.

Barman David Kirkman said: “It’s such a shame they’re going to change it. People come in here as a stranger and walk out as a friend, there’s not many places you can do that.”

Mrs Kirkman said: “In 20 years time there won’t be any pubs like this left.

“Then they’ll probably try to recreate them but it won’t be the same, it won’t be the genuine thing.”