Another interesting meeting with the board of The Holly Bush Seighford http://www.thehollybushinseighford.co.uk/ last night. Again an example of a community purchasing a pub themselves and making it a success. They had initially utilised the services of Titanic to manage the pub for them but after a few years, they had mutually agreed that the wet-led approach was not conducive to a long-term future for a pub in a village of 100 homes. It had to become a destination pub that is attractive to everyone, not just a few drinkers.
They, therefore, went down a tenancy route which has worked well for them and enabled them to undertake repairs etc. They have not and do not anticipate ever paying out a dividend!
The pub was purchased for £200,000 absolutely derelict and funds were raised for a share issue within a month in fact pledges were received to be able to make bids at auction within a week. Some of the people who purchased shares have never been in contact since!
The board emphasised that it is important that the shareholders and landlord have a clearly defined relationship from the outset. Because you are a shareholder doesn’t mean that you get any special treatment! We have heard this before.
We came away feeling that they saw their role as charitable and their only ambition is to keep the pub open which after all the other local village pubs have closed is an honourable and worthwhile position.
They hadn’t used the services of the Plunket foundation.
The tenant pays a monthly rent and they also get a % of the wet sales.
We called in at the Fitzherbert arms at Swynnerton on the way back and it was immediately obvious why this place is so successful as a village pub. We would recommend all of the steering group to visit.
I will put together a summary of the key learning points to present to our next meeting. But overall it is clear even when a pub has failed badly it can recover if a few basic features are in place and it can become a roaring success if the owners want to invest in its future.
Probably the most telling point from all the pubs visited was the comment about the White Hart at Alton “We bought it but nothing happened. The pub only started to come alive after about 2 years when we changed the bar and put a fire in”