The rise of the community-owned pub

8th Aug 2019

A hotel and pub in Gartmore, near Stirling could soon be the first in Scotland to be owned through community shares.

The Black Bull Hotel is the subject of a community share offer aiming to crowdfund £55,000. The idea has received financial backing from the Scottish Land Fund and the volunteers behind the campaign now hope their supporters back them to raise the necessary community contribution.

The opportunity arose after current owners, Andy and Liz Malcolm, decided it was time to move on to other ventures, offering to sell the business to a community group for below its market value.

A group of volunteers quickly formed to investigate further and after consultation with the community, plans were drawn up to take on the hotel and convert it to a “hub and pub” space that could be enjoyed by everybody in the village. 

Colin Garvie, one of the society’s founding directors, said: "The creation of the Black Bull Hub & Pub will address some of the key challenges faced by the village, including an absence of facilities for an ageing population, social isolation, shortage of local activities for young people, limited local employment opportunities and a lack of public services and facilities to attract visitors to the area.

“The Black Bull Hub and Pub will generate the necessary revenue to pay staff, improve facilities and provide services that will empower the community to make Gartmore a better place to live, work and visit, as well as protecting the services and sustainability of the village hall and the village shop both of which are also owned and run by the community."

The group behind the recent campaign has used the community benefit society model to ensure the business will now be owned and managed by the people who use it.

Community benefit societies, sometimes known as BENCOMs, are a form of community ownership similar to a cooperative, where those who support the organisation can become members with a stake in its future. Any profits from the business must then be reinvested toward its social objectives. A key benefit of this legal structure is the ability to raise money through community shares.

While most shareholders are expected to come from the local area, anybody who wishes to support the project can buy shares.

The project has been helped along the way by Community Shares Scotland, a national support organisation for any communities wishing to issue community shares, and could be the first of several similar schemes across Scotland. With one UK pub every twelve hours said to permanently close its door, some see community ownership as the ideal way to save much needed social spaces, especially in rural areas.

James Proctor, programme manager at Community Shares Scotland (CSS), said: “There are over one hundred community-owned pubs in England and Wales but this is the first we’re aware of in Scotland. We’re starting to see more and more communities look at community shares as a way to save local pubs and we expect the Black Bull to be the first of several over the coming months. There’s a strong network of support out there for communities who wish to do this, not just from ourselves but also from the likes of the Scottish Land Fund and the Plunkett Foundation”.

Gartmore could soon be followed by residents in Banton, where the Scottish Land Fund has also invested in plans to take on The Swan Inn, and in Glenfarg where a community group aims to build a wholly new premises to replace a pop-up bar in the local village hall.

Residents in Gartmore will be more familiar with community ownership than most, as the community has owned its local shop for over twenty years. That was itself bought following a community share offer and villagers will hope that success can be replicated with the Black Bull.

For more information and to invest in the share offer visit https://blackbullgartmore.com