FEARS are mounting that a neighbourhood pub will swap pints of beer for milk and turn into a supermarket.

The Castle in Midanbury, Southampton, faces an uncertain future after its landlord stepped down amid harsh trading conditions.

The pub may shut in August after which current landlord Michael Warner, 32, said it could follow the fate of other city pubs and become another chain store.

Owners Enterprise Inns has not ruled this out and said it was keeping its options open.

But Mr Warner said the pub’s chequered past has made it difficult for him and sister Charlene to make it a success after taking over four years ago.

He said: “We are gutted that it is going because we feel like we have let people down but we know deep down that it’s not our fault.

“The troubled past was a big factor, which was a shame because it used to be a vibrant community pub. It has been difficult to get people through the doors.”

The pub, which dates back to the 1930s, was targeted in 2007 when a mob of nine youths burst in, armed with a handgun and a petrol bomb, believing their enemies to be inside.

Investigators said it was only down to luck that the bomb failed to ignite and the gunman failed to fire his weapon – saving up to 30 lives. Supermarket giants throughout the country are eyeing up struggling pubs.

A loophole in planning regulations means supermarket chains do not require change of use planning permission.

So far this year Tesco has converted The Woodman in Lordswood Road and The Bulls Eye in Butts Road, Sholing, into its Express stores.

The Co-op has also replaced The Anchor and Hope in Foundry Lane, Freemantle, with a store.