New investment secured for local pub with community purpose

A 200-year-old village pub has secured a new funding package enabling it to thrive for the benefit of its community and surrounding local area.

The Blue Bell pub situated in Stoke Ferry, Norfolk has been serving residents since 1795 and as a community owned pub since 2021. Locals obtained the pub as an ‘Asset of Community Value’ and established a Community Benefit Society (Stoke Ferry Community Enterprise Limited) as a transparent way to deliver the project alongside their community. Fundraising for the purchase involved a successful community share offer, grants and loans with the pub receiving specialist advice and finance from the More Than a Pub programme.

Prior to and since opening, Stoke Ferry Community Enterprise have invested in repairs and maintenance for the pub including brand new electrics, underfloor heating and new heating system, new bar installation, improved accessibility, a new kitchen as well as improvements to the outside of the pub with children’s area, wooden roofed pods and metal pergola.

A small event and private dining area called The Lock Room (after the Lock family that had their name over the door of the Blue Bell for over a century) has also been created which serves as dining room and café seating up to 14 people available for hire free of charge for community benefit events. A range of catering options from light refreshments, buffets, set menus and a la carte dining are also provided.

The society currently has 450 members and the proudly community owned and run pub has full time staff working alongside a group of around 10 local volunteers helping out in the pub, kitchen and bar. With a good understanding of the local market and a mission that puts the community at the heart of what they do, The Blue Bell has proved popular with locals and residents within the surrounding area.

Alan Lury (Secretary to Stoke Ferry Community Enterprise Limited) said: “The loan from Co-operative & Community Finance has enabled us to consolidate most of our existing loans, including a short-term one, into a more manageable situation and to pay off some outstanding items so that we can concentrate more fully on the busy day-to-day running of the Blue Bell. Our thanks go to our CCF representative Kevin who was straightforward, down-to-earth and most importantly encouraging throughout.”

Co-operative & Community Finance were delighted to help Stoke Ferry Community Enterprise secure a loan package for refinancing and working capital following on from the ‘More Than a Pub’ legacy scheme. Kevin Lloyd-Evans, Lending and Relationship Manager at Co-operative & Community Finance said: “Working with Alan and Stephen at Stoke Ferry Community Enterprise was a pleasure. I was really impressed with how they dealt with delays and kept moving forward with the refinancing package. Co-operative & Community Finance’s funding works really well by helping build long-term financial viability with affordable monthly repayments. An excellent basis to move forward.”

The legacy ‘More Than a Pub Fund’ scheme provides loan finance of between £75,000 to £150,000 available to Community Owned Pubs at a discounted rate of interest for members of Plunkett UK, length of term ranges from five to twenty years. Co-operative & Community Finance also helps support groups to access grant funding to help them develop business plans and pay for surveys through the Reach Fund. Please contact Co-operative & Community Finance for the full terms and conditions, and to discuss how your Community Owned Pub venture can be supported.

You can find out more about The Blue Bell pub by visiting their website.