Residents hoping to restore the former Ship Inn in Aldwick gathered outside the pub on Wednesday to create a campaign video.
It came as the Friends of the Ship Inn prepare to launch a scheme to raise £300,000 in order to buy the freehold of the building and reopen it as a community pub.
Alison Terry, a member of the steering committee, said the people gathered were just a ‘small fraction’ of the more than 400 residents who had already expressed interest in buying a share issue in the building, which was converted into a food shop after it closed as a pub in 2014.
The building has stood empty for two years – but a planning application submitted last month has prompted fears that it could reopen as a convenience store again.
Mrs Terry said: “We’ve got this window of opportunity – it’s now or never.
“Otherwise we will get another Tesco or something, which is not what we want.
“We want a hub for the community to support people who are a bit isolated or lonely. Somewhere people feel welcome.
“All the people between here and Pagham have nowhere they can walk to.”
She said the community pub would be open all day and could be used by different groups, as well as offering affordable but good quality food.
Roger Beam, chairman of the Friends of the Ship Inn, said: “We want to revive the community spirit here and get people involved again.”
He said people felt the absence of the pub ‘very acutely’, adding: “People want it back again, people want a hub.”
Alan Martin, who has lived in Aldwick since 2001, said it was ‘shameful’ that there was no pub in the parish.
Patricia Macey, who is widowed and a carer for her mother, said a community pub would provide a ‘social’ activity for her.
“It’s something that the community needs. There’s nothing here,” she said.
Andy and Jane Archer said they had lived in the area since the 60s and remembered when the former pub was ‘thriving’.
“It was a nice community feature, somewhere to take the dog that was walkable,” Andy said.
They agreed that a new community pub would need to offer ‘something for everyone’ – acting as a place to have a coffee to hold activities like a book club, for example.
“It needs to be open all day for all sorts of different reasons,” they said.
Aakash Patel who works at the newsagents opposite the building said the plan to reopen the pub was ‘a good idea’ which he hoped would have a positive impact on his business as well.
“I don’t want a superstore to come here,” he said. “I think it should be a pub or restaurant.”
The campaign video will appear on a new website set up by the Friends of the Ship Inn, which is due to launch soon.
The group are also planning to hold a public meeting in November.