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I’ll start this week with an update on a story I covered a few weeks ago. *Wetherspoons were attempting to open new premises in Stirling, but had encountered hurdles after Greene King, who operate in the town under the Belhaven brand lodged a judicial review to try and overturn the local council decision to approve the application. *Belhaven already ran 7 premises in the town making up over 10% of the town’s pubs. *The complication was that two of Wetherspoons core products are Greene King IPA and Greene King Ruddles as well as featuring three more of their beers on the guest list, hence they were taking on a major client.
Courts had asked Stirling Council to review the evidence and reconsider their decision on this basis. *This week they duly did this and concluded that they were right the first time, voting 4-1 to confirm the original declaration. *The development on the site will now start creating 50 jobs and investing £1.5m in the town. **In a week where it was reported that the rate of pub closures had increased to 26 per week up from 18 per week last year, any pub that serves decent ale opening up is a good thing. *Ideally it would be the small local pubs or independent premises which were opening, but we are in a economic situation where idealism sometimes does not come into play.
However it is exactly one these local pubs which appears to have a chance of a more secure future after it was granted the status of “asset of community”. *The Fox and Goose just outside Hebden Bridge was put up for sale because of the owner’s Julia Warren ill-health and there was fears that it could be purchased by one of the big chains and lose its identity and reputation for serving many lesser known beers. **To gain the status the “Friends of the Fox” had to show that it benefits the ‘social wellbeing’ of the local community. The council said it fitted the bill because “it was used by numerous groups and clubs including walkers, fell runners, cyclists, real ale enthusiasts, a bridge club, environmental groups and a history society and it runs a range of activities for the community such as music nights, quizzes and beer festivals”.
The successful campaign to secure the status which now means that local people have a six month window to raise the money to purchase the pub before other parties can make an offer was backed by many local community groups, the Calderdale CAMRA branch and other regional organisations. *The pub, which specialises in beers from smaller and medium sized independent brewers now has a group numbering over 100 aiming to raise the funds to purchase this community pub.
They have issued a draft share offer to anybody who is interested in investing in the project. *They plan to raise enough to purchase the pub outright and invest some money in refurbishing the public areas. *The pubs finances are profitable, with room for efficiency savings in stock management on its expected turnover of £166,000. *The group need £130,000 to purchase the pub (£85,000) and then invest in the premises (£23,000), the additional costs being fees and ongoing running costs post purchase. *The projects point to a five figure net profit within 5 years after all costs.
I’ve used this pub several times and it is a lovely little pub which concentrates on the beer and is welcoming to man and beast equally. *It would be a pity to see the place lose its distinctiveness just when Hebden Bridge is becoming a location for beer drinkers again after the devastation of the floods over the last few years. *Other local pubs like The Old Gate, White Lion, Shoulder of Mutton, Stubbing Wharf and The Railway are all doing good trade in the town, supported by venues like the Trades Club. **Although all of these pubs offer good beer, several offer something different, the Stubbing Wharf is known for its cider range and the Old Gate is known for supplying some very good craft beers, both cask and keg. **These pubs along with the Fox’s focus on smaller brewers and the other surrounding pubs simply supplying good beer all compliment each other, creating a balance which benefits the town as a whole.