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Community Pub Ownership: A Case Study

If one of your local pubs is under threat, one option for saving it is for the community to get together and buy it.

This is exactly what local people in Wrexham did with the Saith Seren (Seven Stars) pub, which the community reopened as a cooperative, specialising in promoting the Welsh language.  We spoke to Llyr Gruffydd AM, Welsh Assembly Member for North Wales who is involved in the project for more details.  This is what he had to say:

"The Saith Seren project began because a number of local people wanted to re-open the historic Seven Stars pub in Wrexham town centre as a Welsh Centre, focussing on providing Welsh-language entertainment and locally produced food and drink. A cooperative was formed and I joined the cooperative. The pub, which is a listed Victorian building, had been closed for a year prior to the re-opening.

"I’m told the Saith Seren is unique as the only town-centre cooperatively run pub in the UK, most others are in villages or the edge of cities and towns.  It has provided a focal point for the 18,000 Welsh speakers in the Wrexham area, with various live music and poetry events as well as providing a meeting place for some of the town’s many hundreds of Welsh learners. It was also very, very full for the recent Six Nations championship and has quickly earned a reputation as being THE place to watch Wales play locally. The fact that Wales did so well didn’t do us any harm whatsoever!

"We’re fortunate that we have a brewer, Pene Coles, on the board and she has provided us with some of her Sandstone beer to start off with. We are still expanding – with plans for meeting rooms and offices for hire upstairs to be refurbished later this year – and a microbrewery in the cellar is part of those plans. We also have other real ales and will be rotating the various Welsh real ales over the coming months – with 50 Welsh microbreweries, there’s plenty of scope!

"It’s a community cooperative and we have about 100 members, mainly from the Wrexham area but we have people from all over Wales and even one in San Fransisco who has invested the minimum £100 to become a shareholder. We are currently working on our second share issue to fund the upstairs refurbishment and that will be open to anyone who supports the cooperative’s aims.

"The pub has a full-time manager, who has a mixture of part-time staff and volunteers helping. That enables us to open seven days a week, a must for a town centre pub. We have been fortunate in going from an idea in Feb 2011 to launching the cooperative in August 2011 to opening the centre in Jan 2012 – that has been a bit of a rollercoaster but we’ve succeeded with the first stage of the plan. Much of that is down to us deciding to appoint an experienced project manager to supervise the scheme, as we were enthusiastic amateurs with other commitments. Without her, the project would have taken years and probably led to disillusionment. We still have a lot to do in terms of communicating more effectively with our members but that is something we are focussed on.

"I’d recommend this to any community faced with the loss of a community facility like a pub – we’ve already had inquiries from other groups looking to do this, which is great. The best advice would be to take on a project manager, have a clear idea of the property you want and not rely on grants. We’ve done all this without any grants, although we’ve had support from the Wales Cooperative Centre in terms of expert advice and training. That has been invaluable."

If you’re considering getting together with local people to buy and run a pub, here are some places you can look to for more information: