Thursday, January 24, 2013

Crowdfunding Pubs 135 investors at a time...

Photo: Daniel Jones

The villagers who clubbed together to save their pub

A campaign to save the pub brought the village of Shottisham together.

Raise a glass to raising funds: the Sorrel Horse was saved from closure by the Shottisham community

 By Ian Evans11:29AM GMT 14 Jan 2013

 Buying your local and drinking the profits has long been a guffawing topic of conversation in pubs across the country. But when the Sorrel Horse in the Suffolk village of Shottisham was threatened with closure, the locals did just that and bought the 16th-century, picture-postcard hostelry, ensuring its survival for future generations. With an estimated 18 pubs closing every week according to the Campaign for Real Ale, villagers from the surrounding area bucked the national trend by raising the £350,000 asking price to buy the pub and, so far, nearly all the additional £100,000 for taxes, rethatching and other costs. One of the seven directors of the newly created Sorrel Horse Shottisham Ltd, Paul Venediger, said: “It started off as a chat among a few people and then grew from there. I think there was a feeling that we didn’t want to lose the pub because there isn’t much else in the village.” Unlike many threatened pubs, the Sorrel Horse was not owned by a brewer or pub chain but by a local businessman who had wanted to build seven houses on adjoining land and spend some of the profit renovating the timber-framed, Grade II listed building, including adding a conservatory. Fellow director Philip Bouscarle said: “There was a general feeling that it just wouldn’t happen, trade would go down and the pub would close and be converted into housing. We just didn’t want that to happen.” After initial meetings of an unofficial steering group in April and May 2011, they approached the owner and offered £350,000; he accepted by email within 24 hours. “He was very good throughout and is now a shareholder,” said Philip. “Once he accepted, we arranged a public meeting in the pub and sent out leaflets explaining what we wanted to do.” Around 70 people attended the first meeting in a village of around 160 people, some of whom use the properties as second homes. “People were asking about the price and how we’d make money,” said Paul. “We thought it was important that it should be a commercial venture and aim to make a profit because without that incentive, it won’t work. “We thought that without the pub, property values could fall £20,000 to £30,000 because Shottisham would just become a 'drive-through’ village,” he said. An official steering group was voted in to carry on the project. At the end of June 2011, banners were erected in the village, a website established and an off-the-shelf company created with five directors which would buy the pub. It was decided that shares would cost £500 each with a maximum individual investment of 45 shares with the added attraction of Enterprise Investment Scheme tax relief of 30 per cent for investors. By August 2011, the group had enough to buy the pub with 135 investors. In October last year, the pub held its first AGM and in early November published its first set of accounts. To date, 71 per cent of the 200 investors own two or less shares with most coming from local communities, but some as far away as Oman and Australia. Just three shares remain. Single shareholders and regulars Diana and Greville Bickerton, who live in nearby Sutton, were willing investors. “We didn’t buy shares for profit, it was for the sense of community – we didn’t want to lose the pub,” said Diana. Greville added: “There’s nothing here apart from the church and the village hall. “I’ve lived around here for 25 years and I’ve probably met more people in the last year through buying the pub that I’ve done before. “There’s been a real sense of community and people wanting to get involved. There’s a real feeling the pub is theirs and they want to come here and enjoy it.” The board of directors oversee the running of the pub which employs a full-time manager, two chefs and three part-time bar staff. They hold open meetings once every two months and aim to pay dividends, although none have been paid so far. However, buying the pub hadn’t been without contention. “There were some people who were against it and suspicious of our intentions,” said Philip. “Even now we get comments from a minority that we treat it like a personal fiefdom which is frustrating. But I think the majority of people are happy that the pub’s been saved.”

135 Investors put in an average of 2,592.00 pounds each.

No comments:

Post a Comment