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Pub-owning communities fighting back against commercialisation

Pubs in this country have had a tough time of it in recent years. Although pubs are now closing at a slightly slower rate (29 per week, down from 31 per week last year), the odds are still stacked against owners and landlords. In the face of higher property costs and heavily discounted supermarket booze, communities are fighting back. More and more pubs are being bought and run by the people which they serve, rather than the villainous developers who often want to turn them into luxury flats or soulless gastro-pubs. As more and more pubs teeter on the edge of bankruptcy local people are coming together, investing in their local and their community.

‘McDonaldisation’ of society

The commercialisation of towns, cities and even villages is felt almost universally in the UK. We all complain about the ubiquity of high streets - the Tesco on every street corner, the McDonalds on every industrial estate. But many of us feel there is no other option. Indeed, local pubs with their unique structures and colourful names are often the only identifying feature to a particular area. How many directions start with “turn left at the Jolly Sailor” or “down the road from The Blossoms.”

More than just a place to eat or drink

We think that a pub is more than just a place to eat or drink; they are wonderfully unique local institutions. The folks behind the Campaign For Real Ale (CAMRA) explain their importance by comparing traditional pubs to more modern social settings. “Whereas, say, in a Belgian beer-cafe, drinkers will confine themselves to a particular table, where drinks are brought to them, in the British pub many customers are eager to chat with the other occupants, even complete strangers.” Pubs and particularly pubs in more rural settings play a huge role in social cohesion, bringing people from all walks of life together, rich and poor.

Community-owned pubs

In recent years there has been a big growth in the number of pubs owned by the people who normally sit on the other side of the bar. The idea of friends or neighbours coming together to run a pub business seems at odds with modern capitalism. Many find it daunting at first - but sites up and down the country have become successful models of community ownership. Taking ownership enables locals to influence the direction of the pub and the community. They can make sure it meets community needs – is supportive of the local economy – and brings people together. Purchasing a local pub with others in the area is also a great way of making sure people are invested in their local community. Advocates think that community pubs reinvigorate local bonds, acting as a stalwart in the face of increasingly fractured societies.

Why are there more community pubs?

There are a number of reasons for the growth of community ownership. One is a law which means a building can now be labelled an ‘Asset of Community Value’. If a pub gets this status then communities are awarded a specific amount of time to gather a bid together, should the property ever come up for sale. Another reason for the growth of community pubs is the better access to finance. While most would agree that ‘saving their local’ is a good thing, many are sceptical about putting forward the money required for starting up or refurbishing a pub. Now though, there are several loans, grants and fundraising opportunities open to communities.Funds can be raised through the issue of community shares, locality grants, co-operative loans or with money from the Architectural Heritage Fund. Communities up and down the country are finding out that owning their local is a dream which can become reality. If you would like to learn more about community pub ownership visit CAMRA’s pub protection website. Utility Helpline has worked as an intermediary between energy companies and the pub industry for almost a decade. We have helped hundreds of pubs and brewery chains secure the right deal on their energy bills. We have deep relationships with several large suppliers and are a Carlsberg: We Deliver More recommended partner.

Published by Utility Helpline on (modified )