What is it all about?
May 25, 2017
Why Invest?
May 25, 2017

Questions And Answers

Why should we get involved? Just let someone else buy it who wants to run it as a pub.

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:

  • New owners would be free to operate The Railway in a manner of their choosing which may not be in keeping with the traditional feel of the pub or not as a pub at all, or to seek permission for a change of use to residential use, particularly if operation as a pub was not successful. A second chance to buy the pub may not arise which could leave Clive and Grinshill, likely for the first time in their joint histories, without a single pub between them;
  • The alterations another buyer may make to The Railway Inn could be hugely damaging to the character of the place and impossible to reverse at a later date without massive expense;
  • There are currently grants and low-interest loans available for Community Pubs this may not last. There are known to be at least 110 other Community Benefit Pubs in the pipeline, they could mop up the financial packages currently available;
  • There is a window of opportunity right now to buy The Railway Inn, the owners like our proposal in principle and could even become shareholders in the venture;
  • Currently, there is a lot of goodwill toward the pub and the owners, giving us impetus. This affection would transfer to a sympathetically restored and run community-owned Railway Inn;
  • Community-owned pubs have 100% success rate, can secure cheap loans and grants and provide their locality with a social focus and a wide range of services crucial to rural areas.

How will it be done?

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.

How much will it cost to buy and refurbish?

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.

If the pub wasn’t profitable before why would it be different now?

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.

I’ve never used the pub, why should I care?

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.

What is the situation regarding the pub’s premises license?

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.

Is the kitchen serviceable for commercial cooking?

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.

What happens to the land with the pub?

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.

What happens if not enough money is raised through subscription?

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.

Who will run the pub?

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.

Will there be a volunteer rota?

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.

Management of the Process

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

  • Chairman : S. Rouse

  • Deptuy Chairman: I. Sawers

  • Sectretary : S. Geary

  • Treasuruer: P. Cleary

  • Commitee Members : J. Heath, M. Foley, C. Varga, B. Tevendale, P. Lansdale, K. Benbow, J. Bothwell, S. France

Tim Craig as a former publican with many years’ experience of successfully running a number of pubs has also kindly provided valuable input.

As this group is informal, we will seek formal support to continue work on the feasibility of acquisition (Phase 1 of the process as set out below) through formal adoption of a Steering Group with an approved Memorandum of Association. Upon acquisition, the Steering Group will be disbanded and replaced by a Management Committee elected by shareholders to run the Community Benefit Society.

We envisage a two phase process:

Phase 1: Acquisition

  • a Memorandum of Association has been prepared as a formal basis for the Steering Group;
  • the Steering Group undertakes further feasibility work with a view to progressing the project to a position of acquiring The Railway;
  • – with consultation of interested former patrons, the Steering Group will prepare a “charter” or “constitution” to set out the vision of taking the pub forward into a new era whilst retaining the essential character and legacy of Liz, Ady and Alice and having a broad- based appeal to all members of the local community;

Phase 2: Operational Management

  • upon acquisition, a small Management Committee will be elected by shareholders (one shareholder one vote, irrespective of the level of holding, akin to the John Lewis model) with a remit to safeguard the charter and to provide a strategic overview;
  • appointment of an appropriate person/people to become the licensee with freedom within the framework of the charter to run the pub on a day-to-day basis;
  • broad shareholder input to major decisions and periodic shareholder meeting;
  • election of the Management Committee at the AGM.

Why will each shareholder only get one vote regardless of the number of shares they have?

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

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