The UK’s steadily growing co-op pub sector has reached a milestone, with the country’s 50th community-owned local getting ready to pull its first pint.
The Craufurd Arms in Maidenhead, Berkshire, faced last orders in August 2016 when its former owner, the Wellington Pub Company, announced it was up for sale.
Already alarmed at the rate of pub closures in the town, locals set up up a community benefit society, the Craufurd Arms Society, and raised £310,000 from their community share offer in March 2017. Shareholders were invited to invest between £250 and £25,000 to become members, and democratic owners, of the pub.
The group received specialist advice and finance from the More Than A Pub programme, set up in 2016 to support community ownership of pubs in England. This two-year programme is funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government and Power to Change, and is delivered by the Plunkett Foundation.
The transfer of ownership was accomplished without any interruption to the business of serving customers. The child-friendly, dog-friendly pub has two crib teams and two darts teams and shows a wide range of sports on TV. It also hosts regular quiz nights and live music gigs.
The society plans to add new functions to the pub, hosting fundraising events for local charities, providing meeting place for local sports teams, and working with local good causes – including a project with the Autism Group to provide an after school-club for young adults on the autistic spectrum.
Mark Newcombe, chair of the Craufurd Arms Society, said: “Although this is an urban setting, the Craufurd feels like a village local. There used to be six pubs in this part of Maidenhead and now this is the only one. We’ve done this to safeguard the future of the community.
“The pub has always been popular but it suffered from under-investment. Under community ownership, we will be investing the surplus in improving the pub. And with the support of well over 200 members I’m sure it is going to be more popular than ever.”
He added: “We are very excited and proud to be the 50th co-operative pub in the UK and are grateful for the support and advice we received from the Plunkett Foundation.”
There will be an official ‘Grand Opening Weekend’ to celebrate the new community ownership from Friday 21 – Sunday 23 July, during the Maidenhead Festival.
James Alcock, general manager at Plunkett, said: “We are delighted the Craufurd Arms is set to become the 50th Co-operative Pub trading in the UK.
“Through the support offered via the ‘More Than A Pub’ programme, the Craufurd Arms Society Ltd has developed a sustainable business case while shaping plans for innovative additional services which will deliver a wide impact to their local community.
“They are a proud addition to this rapidly expanding sector and I wish them every success for the future.”
Jenny Sansom, who leads the More Than a Pub Programme at Power To Change, said: “This is a wonderful milestone, reached through the hard work of communities all over England. It is about keeping pubs alive, along with all the great services that the pubs will now host.”