Monday, 06 April 2020

Councillors debate pub takeover by community

COUNCILLORS in Wargrave have discussed the idea of a village pub being managed by the community.

The leasehold of the Greyhound, which is on the corner of School Lane and High Street, has been for sale since September.

Landlord Steve Linstead, who has run the pub with his family since 2003, is selling the lease, which is valid for another five years, and hopes to receive £45,000.

The pub is owned by Ei Group, which charges rent of £28,000 per year. Trade is in the order of £188,000 per year.

Wargrave Parish Council debated the pub being run as a community venture, meaning a group of local people would share responsibility for it.

Councillor Graham Howe said: “I think the parish council should consider this as a project and think about whether or not this is the sort of thing we want to do.

“It has been on the market for some time now and, let’s face it, everything in this world is negotiable.

“From a village point of view, it would be a shame to miss out. It might be worth further exploration.

“With some of the properties on the high street we have not been able to do anything about losing them, but with the pub and some fresh energy maybe we could.

“The proposal has to be complimentary and has to be commercially viable because if it is in community ownership they will be the ones who stand to suffer.”

Councillor Nick Hart said he supported the idea, adding: “I think it would have to change to be successful commercially.

“If 10 people from the community come together to part fund it then it could work.”

Councillor Victoria Hermon said: “It would be of great benefit to the community because we seem to have lost so many shops, which is terribly sad.

“I think there would be quite a lot of interest locally in regenerating the village in one way or another.”

Last year, the Italian restaurant Da Toni closed after less than 12 months, having replaced the Haweli restaurant, which shut in June 2018.

In August, Victoria News, a newsagent and post office in Victoria Road, closed and permission was granted for the former Wargrave Antiques shop in High Street to be converted into residential use.

The most recent closure was the Robin’s Nest art gallery in High Street, which stopped trading in January after nearly five years.

A spokesman for specialist chartered surveyors Pub Innsite, which is selling the lease, said no formal offers had been received.

Two local parties had shown interest but both pulled out of negotiations.

He also said there was flexibility on the sale price.

The Ei Group is currently the subject of a £1.3 billion takeover by Stonegate which could result in the disposal of 42 pubs.

If approved, the deal would create the UK’s largest pub company group with almost 5,000 sites.

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