I recently discovered that Newcastle has its first/only community-owned project in the form of the music venue/bar, The Globe – somewhat late to the party since it opened in 2014. To be honest I didn’t know a great deal about community-owned pubs in general but it turns out they have a mission that is very similar to that of Use Your Local; keeping pubs at the heart of communities.
Beginning when a group of people, usually local residents, take it upon themselves to save an otherwise doomed venue by investing their own money. The number of people required depends on how many it takes to cover the cost of purchasing the pub and probably giving it a bit of a refurb. So, this can be anything from 15 to 500, but regardless of their contribution, they all own an equal stake in the business. This is helpful when it comes to voting on key issues as it ensures that the Democratic State of the Local remains a peaceful one.
Interestingly, not a single co-operative has shut its doors since the first opened theirs in 1982, despite previously being considered a failing/failed business. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Those I have come across so far seem to be thriving under their new regime and have even gone on to win a number of industry accolades from organisations including; CAMRA, Trip Advisor, and The Good Pub Guide – to name a few.
I get the feeling that this success is undoubtedly related to the whole nature of their existence. A quick look through their backstories will tell you that shareholder motives are very rarely about profit or the ability to walk in and demand a free pint. It is invariably about a group of people who do not want to see a very special part of their community disappear and who therefore work hard to save it. It’s a pleasant reminder of the role that pubs can play as the cornerstones of our society when properly utilised rather than just a place to drink.
And it’s working! The Bevy, in Brighton was known as a bit of a troublesome spot when it was closed down, until 2014 when more than 700 shareholders decided to take control. It is now the UK’s first community-owned estate pub, hosting everything from quiz nights to kid’s parties, health check drop-ins to garden shows. Their efforts earned them a nomination for Community Pub of the Year at the John Smith’s Great British Pub Awards 2017. Quite the turnaround.
The good news is, there’s plenty more where that came from. As of September 2017, there are more than 50 community-owned pubs operating throughout the UK and with charities like the Plunkett Foundation supporting them, that number is growing every year. Some of them are even still offering shares – so check out our publist, you might just have one right on your doorstep!