We're not snookered yet, say Willie Thorne backers
Willie Thorne's niece has launched a petition to try to save the snooker hall her father ran.
Olivia Thorne is fighting the closure of the Willie Thorne Club, founded by her uncle over 30 years ago and run by her father, Malcolm.
The Charles Street hall, most recently known as Riley's Willie Thorne Club, was ordered to close last week because landlord Leicester City Council wants the building back.
The club was opened by Willie in 1981 and run by Malcolm, with help from the wider family.
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"The club is much more than a snooker club, it is a way of life for many people," said Olivia, 22, of Loughborough.
"We ran it as a family concern and the customers were our extended family.
"I can remember spending weekends there working, collecting glasses and plates, when I was 13, while my older sister, Hayley, worked behind the bar.
"My mum, Mary, was in the kitchen while dad was the man everyone went to.
"My auntie Jane and even my grandmother, Nancy, worked there, too. My dad put his heart and soul into the club and it should be allowed to carry on."
Olivia has launched an online petition to save the club.
She said: "It is never too late. People can change their minds and I want the councillors to find it in their hearts to let us reopen and keep this place going."
Joy Woollaston, general manager of the club, said it would be a sad end to a great club.
Joy, whose son Ben is a professional snooker player, said: "We have had customers in tears. It has been very upsetting indeed.
"My boy cut his snooker teeth here. It is a very special place which will be lost forever."
Professionals including Steve Davies and Alex Higgins have played at the club and it was where stars Mark Selby and Joe Jogia honed their skills.
Willie Thorne, who now has no involvement with the club, said: "It's the end of an era."
The online petition has been signed by people from all over Europe, many of whom have left messages of support.
Lynn Gandy, who lives in Cyprus, said: "I worked at Willie Thorne's Snooker Club in the 1980s and saw the hard work and dedication Malcolm put into the place.
"He was Willie Thorne's Snooker Club and if anything, it should be converted into a snooker museum dedicated to him."
Stefan Mazrocis, of Leicester, said: "Malcolm Thorne and his family built up arguably the best snooker club in the world.
"The times and memories will never be forgotten by us all."
It is understood the space will be used as a base for city council staff who are being moved out of the authority's crumbling New Walk Centre.
The club was taken over 14 years ago by the Riley's chain.
A city council spokesman said it had given the operator notice that the authority would be ending its tenancy and said it "had accepted this".
He said: "We own the building and already have some offices there.
"We are looking at the options for using the rest of it for office accommodation, but no plans have yet been drawn up."
No one from Riley's was available to comment yesterday.
To sign the petition, put "Willie Thorne" in the search field of the website below: