With the share offer underway some questions have been asked which we think are worth sharing in case they are going through your mind too!
Why did you start this Campaign? In April 2013 the pub’s owner put the pub up for sale. Many local residents were concerned that this could lead to the pub being bought by someone who might have wanted to turn it into a house or flats. Others were concerned that if it could not be sold then the owner, Punch Taverns, might just leave the property empty.
The Campaign to retain the pub started on 19 May after over 60 residents met and agreed to start the Campaign. The Steering Group which has run the Campaign was voted in at that meeting. The consensus at the meeting was that we had to do all that we could to retain the pub.
Why did you decide to try to buy the Red Lion? After about 6 months of campaigning to retain the pub it was very clear that there was no one who had approached the estate agent with an interest in buying the pub. So the Steering Group decided that it ought to investigate whether it could realistically buy it as a community pub. This was explained at the public meeting in mid-September.
Even when we reached an agreement in mid-March with Punch Taverns to buy the pub it was clear that no one else had taken steps to try to buy the pub. We could have sat back and done nothing. If we had then we could have been criticised for possibly allowing the pub to close.
Why do you think that you can make a go of the Red Lion as a successful business when others haven’t in recent times? We think that there are a number of reasons why the pub has not been as successful as it perhaps could have been in recent times. The two main reasons are that the pub has not had any meaningful investment made in it and there has not been a vision for developing the pub.
This is why we have taken a lot of time to employ professional advisers and those who understand the local pub trade to advise us. We have determined, through our published Vision Statement, what we want the pub to be in the future, and we have committed to investing over £100,000 into altering and refurbishing the pub. It is a long time since this sort of money was spent on it. We believe that by having worked all of this through we can create a pub business that customers will want to regularly support.
What does a community orientated and owned pub really mean? The vision is for the Red Lion to be more than just the village pub. We want to use it to do things that the village can use. This includes creating a café during the morning and afternoons. There is nothing like this in the village. We envisage it being open at lunchtimes as a pub and therefore it will be able to sell lunches. Again, this is not available 7 days a week in the village.
We will also try to maximise the use of the whole of the pub during the daytime and the evenings. In particular we think that the skittle alley, when it is not being used for skittle games, can be offered for community related activities e.g. a mother and toddler club or a youth club. Perhaps we can provide a service where you can collect (and possibly send) your parcels to and from companies such as Amazon etc.
So, it will be community orientated as the pub will be offered for wider community use and it will be community owned through a wide share ownership. One thing it won’t be is community run! It will be run on a day to day basis by a professional landlord/landlady.
Aren’t you going to turn the Red Lion into a “gastro” pub? We are not going to turn the Red Lion into a “gastro” pub. We believe that customers want to eat food that is of good quality in a real village pub environment. By committing to producing good quality locally sourced food does not mean “gastro”. We believe that providing good quality meat, game, fish and vegetables doesn’t have to be the same as providing a “gastro” menu.
We want to retain a broad set of customers who want to keep coming to eat and drink in the pub. This has been done before in the Red Lion and can be done again.
What will happen to the existing Red Lion landlord if you buy the pub? Punch Taverns told us some time ago that the landlord had been informed that if the pub was sold (to anyone) then his tenancy would come to an end. We are told that this is normal practice. If Sidbury Community Enterprises buys the Red Lion then it will probably close it for a short while in order to refurbish it and will then look to employ a tenant to run the pub. Anyone will be able to apply to be the tenant at that point.
Why will you close the pub once you buy it? Alterations to the pub are needed to make better use of the space and refurbishment of the property throughout is required. We plan to spend about £100,000 on this in the first instance. No significant investment in the pub has been made by any owner for many years and the pub, like all properties, needs a bit of TLC.
If you have any questions about the share offer or the plans for a future Red Lion business please don’t hesitate to pose them to us.