The Star Inn in Salford is about as far away from the world of gastro-pubs as it is possible to get.

Hidden from passing trade up a narrow lane, it is very much a local's local. Behind the green swing doors the Star is warm and steeped in local history.

The weekly darts tournament is still played on a "Manchester log-end", a wooden board that has to be kept in a bucket of water to stay soft.

Ten years ago this corner of northern Salford boasted eight pubs within walking distance of the Star. One by one they've closed their doors.

Before Christmas the Star nearly went the same way. Robinsons, the brewery, decided to sell up and gave three weeks' notice of closure. But the Star's locals formed a co-op and bought their drinking hole for £80,000 ($180,000).

"It was a simple decision really," says Dr Tim Worden, a local GP and one of the 65 shareholders in the Star. "Some of us ... wanted our godchildren to see what a local pub looks like. If the Star went that would have been the end."

The Star is the second pub to have turned itself into a full co-op complete with shareholders and - if the profits come in - dividends paid in cash or beer. Britain's first pub co-op, the Old Crown in the Hesket Newmarket, Cumbria, is flourishing.

"Co-ops have a wonderful track record of thriving in tough industries," says Ed Mayo, chief of the national umbrella body for co-ops, Co-operatives UK.

And industries don't come much tougher. According to the British Beer and Pub Association 39 pubs are closing every week. A new report from Co-operatives UK estimates that 2700 pubs will collapse in the next 12 months, compared to 2006 when there were just 316 net closures.

Any landlord can give you a litany of reasons for why the industry is so tough; from spiralling energy costs to tax hikes and the smoking ban.

But two things get them most animated: the "beer tie", which forces half of the country's pubs to buy drinks from a particular brewer (often at vastly inflated prices), and the multinational companies known as "Pub Cos" which own half of the UK's pubs.

Back in the Star Inn, Robinson's beers have been replaced by ales from a local micro-brewery and there are plans to place tables outside for the summer.

Says local Margaret Fowler: "It will stay a pub where you meet people from all walks of life. As soon as you walk through that door you're all treated equally."

- INDEPENDENT