This idea sounds attractive taken at face value. There are, however, several very good reasons why this may not be the case and which may put the future of the pub or its character in doubt:
We are currently researching what grants and low-interest loans may be available, both locally and nationally, but it is clear that these will only form part of the fund-raising that is required. We will need a significant sum to purchase, refurbish and adapt the pub. As part of the grant applications, we also need to establish how much the community is prepared to invest and whether there is a genuine willingness in the village to contribute sufficient funds to make this project viable.
This has yet to be determined. There will be a valuation which we hope to agree for purchase and quotations for refurbishment and other works secured. There are several funding sources which are being investigated. A major part of the funding will be generated through a share purchase scheme with a minimum purchase value being set at a very modest level to encourage widespread participation. First we need to know whether enough people want to engage in this project.
We envisage expanding the offering of services and amenities of the pub. The proposed business model will allow the pub to be financially self-sustaining and ideally turn a profit, whilst balancing this with the overarching vision of maintaining the character of the pub.
We know from the huge numbers who attended events there not so long ago, and the number of organisations who chose to meet there, that a large number of potential customers and goodwill exists towards the pub. With perhaps 200+ shareholders and their friends, families and businesses committed to The Railway Inn it is easy to see where the business would come from. Shareholders with businesses would be encouraged to use the facilities for meetings, staff parties, socialising etc. and to link the Railway to their networks and to use social media. Add to this the advantage of a low debt to service and volunteer contributions in kind and the future should be bright.
A well-run, welcoming pub is widely recognised as an important community asset. Whilst maintaining the character, we hope the pub will appeal to everyone, whether old or young, male or female. A wide range of ideas for additional facilities have been put forward and may include… good food, meeting rooms, free wifi, a cafe, a play area, traditional pub games, off sales of excellent well-priced wines and craft beers, a minibus facility etc.
If you are still not convinced perhaps think about the value of your home, Sarah Beeny’s estate agency, Tepilo, found 23% of home-buyers (35%in the 18-35 age range) regard proximity to a good local pub as a crucial factor when choosing where to move.
The pub has retained its license. As Liz’s executor, Nigel made the appropriate notifications within the deadline period to safeguard the future of The Railway as a pub.
No, there would need to be a refit. Staff using the kitchen would also need to have completed training to meet food hygiene standards. We envisage traditional, home-cooked fare.
We would wish to acquire sufficient land within the curtilage of the pub, for example, the orchard and its outbuilding and the beer garden and an additional area to square off the site, to offer additional amenities to the pub. This is also important to keep the unique smallholding design of The Railway Inn largely intact and to provide space for additional facilities, for example, extra car parking.
Either the family sells to another bidder with essentially minimal control as to what happens to the pub, or whether it remains a pub, or an additional low-interest loan is considered.
We envisage a manager or tenant will run the pub with a “hands-off”, management committee elected by shareholders providing support. Other co-operatively-owned pubs across the country have a broadly even split between a manager and a tenant. The only other community owned pub in Shropshire, The Pheasant at Neenton, employed the chef and landlady/front of house. On completion of an initial contract, there was the option to transfer the pub to their management via a tenancy.
This would be needed in the early days at least to control costs and until the appointment of a person/people to run the pub. It may mean one evening a month on bar duty for a small cohort of volunteers. There would also likely be work parties to run events and maintain the grounds.
To date, a loosely formed, informal group of enthusiastic patrons of the Railway has evolved and carried out preparatory work including liaison with the family, development of a vision for how the venture may work, assessing feasibility and how it might be implemented. A Memorandum of Association was formally adopted at the meeting of the steering group on the 23rd, May 2017 and the following officers were elected
This offers the best way of safeguarding the legacy of the pub and avoiding control being concentrated in a small number. This is how cooperatives are structured as democratic organisations. Just as citizens all get one vote at elections regardless of how much tax they pay