Community pubs are 'stronger than ever', according to new research

By Robert Mann

- Last updated on GMT

Community spirit: a new £2.2m funding programme for groups seeking to save their local pub through community ownership is to be rolled out this summer
Community spirit: a new £2.2m funding programme for groups seeking to save their local pub through community ownership is to be rolled out this summer
While the statistics for UK pub closures make for rather dismal reading, there’s a sub-category that continues to thrive.

With pubs already closing at a shocking rate of 18 a week, according to Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) figures, the future of the great British pub is very much in question – but there is some good news.

Stronger than ever

A recent report by Plunkett Foundation revealed that local pubs owned as community businesses are “stronger than ever” and “continuing to thrive”.

The comprehensive report showed that in 2017 (the most recent figures), pubs owned or run by members of the community or on behalf of the community increased by 30%.

During the period, 14 new pubs opened, bringing the number of community pubs in Britain to 15.

Meanwhile, 153 groups were actively exploring plans to set up a community pub.

The report also illustrated a number of examples of the benefit of community pubs, including initiatives to address social isolation, loneliness and wellbeing.

Since March 2016, the community pubs sector has been supported by the More Than a Pub programme with funding available towards start-up costs, as well as a dedicated loan and grant scheme.

And, this summer, Plunkett Foundation is teaming up with Power to Change on a new £2.2m funding programme to help communities seeking to save their local pub through community ownership.

Beating the stigma

Chris Cowcher, head of community business at Plunkett Foundation, said he was delighted to see community business thriving in a struggling economic environment.

“This year we are delighted to see trading figures that continue to demonstrate how community businesses are at the forefront of strengthening the rural economy.

“As well as saving vital rural services such as shops and pubs, the standout success of community businesses is found in the social impact they achieve.

“They bring people together of all ages, backgrounds, interests, and give them a purpose to interact; put simply, community shops and community pubs reduce social isolation and loneliness.”

Welcomed news

Following the report, Ben Wilkinson, chair of CAMRA's Pub Campagin, told of his delight upon hearing the results.

“It is fantastic to see that community-owned pubs across the country are thriving," Wilkinson proclaimed. 

"In many instances, these are pubs that have been brought back from the brink of closure through the hard work of dedicated locals who refuse to see their pub disappear.

“Yet, while these examples are heartening, sadly community buy-outs is not a feasible option for every pub under threat.

"That is why CAMRA believes that the promised reviews of both the business rates system and the Pubs Code will be so essential in stemming the tide of pub closures.” 

The news was also welcomed by UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls, who explained the importance in protecting pubs.

"It’s essential that we protect our pubs, and the welcoming, hospitable spaces that bring people together," exclaimed Nicholls.

“The recent research from the Plunkett Foundation clearly outlines the positive and valued role that the pub has to play at the heart of communities in the UK."

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