50th Co-op Pub Opens

A rare example of an ungentrified local in the affluent Royal Borough of Windsor has become the 50th co-operative pub in the UK. On 26 June 2017, the Craufurd Arms in Maidenhead, a pub known for its good beer, darts teams, and sports TV, was bought by a community benefit society of 226 members.

The residents of this densely populated part of Theresa May’s constituency had become alarmed in recent years by the closure and redevelopment of local pubs. In 2015 they succeeded in having the Craufurd Arms listed as an Asset of Community Value. So in August 2016 when the owner, the Wellington Pub Company, announced that it wished to dispose of the property, local people acted quickly. They formed an action group, conducted a local survey and decided to set up a community benefit society to buy the pub.

The group received specialist advice and finance from the More Than A Pub programme, which was 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. Co-operative & Community Finance arranges loan finance for groups that have successfully attracted local investment, usually in the form of community shares.

The community share issue for the Craufurd Arms opened in February 2017 and soon raised £310,000 from 226 people investing sums between £250 and £25,000. With the grant from More Than A Pub, and the loan from Co-operative & Community Finance, this was enough to proceed with the purchase of the pub.

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.

There are ambitious plans to develop the Craufurd Arms into a community hub with services and facilities beyond the traditional role of a local pub. These include working with local charities and groups, for example working with the Autism Group to provide an after school club for young adults on the autistic spectrum.

There will be a ‘Grand Opening Weekend’ to celebrate the new community ownership from Friday 21st to Sunday 23rd July during the Maidenhead Festival.

Mark Newcombe, Chairman of the Craufurd Arms Society Limited, 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, I am sure without them we would not have been able to achieve our dream of bringing our pint-sized pub into community ownership.”

Ian Rothwell, Investment Manager of Co-operative & Community Finance, said: “It is wonderful that there are now 50 co-operative pubs in England and Wales, and there will soon be more. Co-operative & Community Finance has been working with partner organisations and local communities in recent years to help more local people own their local pubs, shops and other facilities. Community ownership offers a sustainable future for many local pubs.”

James Alcock, General Manager at Plunkett Foundation, said: “We are delighted that 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. have 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.”