Visit to Auctioneers Arms

As part of the factfinding and information gathering process, the Steering Committee visited The Auctioneers Arms at Caverswall.  This is a community-owned pub that was threatened by demolition before it was taken into community ownership.  This is so that we will be able to recommend an appropriate, long term, the business model for The Holly Bush based upon what works elsewhere rather than our opinions.

Arranged at very short notice we were met inside the pub by the instigator of the campaign to “Save the Knock” Brian Griffiths, and Ross Ward. 

Despite the impact of COVID the pub is in an extremely healthy position and our first impression was how friendly and welcoming everyone was.  the bar area was well used even at 7.30pm and immediately we noticed that the large proportion of clientele were women some with babies.

Brian and Ross briefed us on what steps they had taken to secure the premises and how they sold part of the car park to local residents so that they could add value to their own house as they didn’t have any parking space themselves. This raised £60.000.

The members of the committee that attended noted that The Knock was now contributing to the village in ways other than being a pub and giving grants to local groups as well as helping to get new groups started. The key phrase was “It’s More Than A Pub”

As there is another pub in Caverswall it was emphasised how important it was to ensure that they kept in touch and worked together to operate a no competition offer different ales food etc and security policies being a joint policy that both pubs adhered to.

Our hosts advised us that from their experience every pub is different and has different issues so we should research widely and that their intervention was not unanimously popular despite the bub actually closing. 

They used the cooperative mechanism and it has proved successful and after 3 years it has been able to buy back some of its original shareholders options and pay a dividend.

In their case, the shareholders appointed a management committee who pay a pub manager to run the pub on their behalf and he is heavily incentivised to grow the business.  The management committee do not interfere in the day to day operation of the pub.

Our hosts also stated that another key issue was the Knock was a “drinkers pub” but this also excluded a significant proportion of the community so to find a way to accommodate this difference was important.  They have recently opened a part of the pub as “the Gavel coffee bar and Brasserie”

All the committee recognised the challenges that the Knock had overcome especially in fundraising and we welcomed their advice. All felt that it gave them confidence that the Holly Bush should be “more than a pub” and our attempts to retain it in perpetuity were worthwhile.