Last night 28 Feb 2022, we managed to visit The White Hart at Alton for another “How was it for you?” session. Phil, Alan, Simon Evans and myself met with Tom and John from Alton. It was clear that they had tried many different things and learned much. The key learning that they gave was:-
- Their attempts to run the pub didn’t really work until they closed it for a month and revamped it. Installing a new open fire and creating a completely new bar area was a turning point
- Their Village already has 3-4 pubs and is 1/3 size of Brown Edge but still the pub is viable.
- Rooms upstairs are being converted into lets and are already booked out bringing in income of $800 a week. Plus guests are using the pub for meals and drink. Recommend we do the same if possible. Do not use for manager
- They couldn’t do a revamp because they only raised enough money to buy the pub. (don’t make that mistake)
- They chose not to go down the Cooperative route as one vote per person unfair but their minimum share was $1,000 worked for them
- Running the pub has now become much better. At the beginning every shareholder was a publican! Need total clarity as to how it will run before issue shares.
- Best option is a large share ownership base but a small management committee of people prepared to put time and effort in and a manager to operate it.
- They had tried a café idea but it hadn’t worked for them because it was operated by volunteers and not seen as a profit centre
- They outsource the catering to a local Thai person and she does the breakfasts for the lodgers in return for the use of the kitchen.
Overall the pub was very clean and, for a Monday evening, was busy with darts, pool and skittles league matches. There was plenty of choice & friendly, well-presented staff.
It was more work than Tom and John expected but they have saved the pub and it’s now a contributor to the community.
We all agreed that it was very worthwhile attending these meetings withpeople who had already created a community pub and actually boosts confidence in the Buy the Bush project.
We will be visiting the Royal Oak at Rushton and the Holly Bush at Seighford and possibly the Offley Arms at Madeley as these all used different purchasing models which gives us a broad picture of best practice