More than a Pub: The Community Pub Business Support Programme was launched in March 2016 as a two-year programme in response to the large number of pubs that were closing and the impact this was having on the communities they served .
The programme provides a comprehensive package of business development support, advice plus loan and grant funding delivered to community groups in England to help them establish community-owned pubs. Jointly funded by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and Power to Change, the programme is led by Plunkett Foundation and delivered in collaboration with Co-operative and Community Finance, Keyfund and other leading organisations within the sector.
Over 50 communities across England have already successfully taken ownership of their local pub, and a further 61 that are working with the More than a Pub Programme have been listed as ‘assets of community value’ under community rights, highlighting the important role that pubs play in local communities. For the 18 pubs opened under the programme so far, nearly 3000 local people have contributed an additional £3.7m in community shares .
The programme offers a flexible package of support including access to an advice line, events, workshops, peer-to-peer study visits, and business development advice. It also offers flexible bursary awards to fund early stage activity, such as community consultation work, and a grant and loan package.
The programme supports pubs where they advance a charitable purpose to benefit their communities by, for example:
- providing regeneration through access to public services and amenities to those who are socially excluded;
- promoting employment, education and training in areas of high social need;
- encouraging volunteering, citizenship and community development as a hub for community groups.
One such pub is The Gardeners Rest in Sheffield, which opened in October 2017 with over 400 local residents investing between £100 and £5,000 to become Society members – and democratic owners – of the pub, now being run for the benefit of the community. The group has developed The Gardeners Rest into a community hub with services and facilities beyond that of a traditional local. The pub now undertakes charitable work with vulnerable adults and people with learning difficulties, by providing employment opportunities and meeting space. It also continues to be a music venue with guest performers, as well as an activity centre and a place for local artists and photographers to exhibit their work.
Mark Powell, Director of The Gardeners Rest, said: “The programme support made the difference between buying a pub and investing in More Than a Pub – we have stayed focused on our community purpose because of this. It would have been too easy to have done otherwise in the first year of a new commercial venture.”
Community Pubs Minister Jake Berry said: “Our Great British pubs are a national asset, providing thousands of jobs and boosting the economy by £21 billion a year. And I’m delighted to announce this extension to the More than a Pub programme which will build upon the Government’s commitment to keep pubs at the heart of our villages, towns and cities and I look forward to hearing more success stories in the months to come.”
Vidhya Alakeson, Chief Executive of Power to Change, said: “We are delighted to be partners in this effort to accelerate the number of community-owned pubs that can tackle problems of urban and rural disadvantage. By acting as hubs for a multitude of activities in their local communities, community-owned pubs can make a significant contribution to reducing isolation, improving well-being and providing access to basic services. They can bring the heart back to many communities that have been hollowed out by the loss of local services.”
James Alcock, General Manager of Plunkett Foundation, said: “This programme has already significantly increased the number of community-owned pubs open and trading, bringing far-reaching benefits to local people. For many communities, pubs are not just a place to drink; they are central to peoples’ sense of place and identity, they provide an important place for people to meet and help to build community cohesion.”
To find out more about the programme please call the programme advice line on 01993 810730 or visit www.plunkett.co.uk/more-than-a-pub.
 In 2016 CAMRA research showed that UK pubs were closing at an average of 27 per week. Over the last 10 years we have lost around a fifth of all pubs nationally.
 What are community shares?
The term ‘community shares’ refers to withdrawable share capital; a form of share capital unique to co-operative and community benefit society legislation. This type of share capital can only be issued by co-operative societies, community benefit societies and charitable community benefit societies. Community shares can save local shops and pubs, finance renewable energy schemes, transform community facilities, support local food growing, fund new football clubs, restore heritage buildings, and above all, build stronger, more vibrant, and independent communities.