Having been able to demonstrate our ability to secure and repay loans, there were extra grant facilities we were able to qualify for, which helped us to deliver the first steps of our plan.
More than a pub
The Bevy sees itself as “more than a pub” re-opening its doors in 2014 to provide a vital range of community services to the people of Moulsecombe and Bevendean. Set in a low-income, geographically-isolated area of Brighton, a community of 30,000 residents lost it’s only pub in 2010 after it was shut down by the police following years of trouble. There was widespread interest and need to repurpose the existing property to be a positive and relevant focal point to serve the community once again.
The Board became aware of the potential of social investment through trusted local networks – including The Platform, a social enterprise hub and CAF Venturesome’s SE Assist Fund. Grant and loan finance was vital to purchasing of the lease and refitting of the pub, which was in a state of substantial disrepair.
The amount of borrowing in our circumstances would not have been possible from a high street bank and the community could not raise this on their own – although 700 local shareholders were able to participate by purchasing shares from as little as £5. Having been able to demonstrate our ability to secure and repay loans, there were extra grant facilities we were able to qualify for, which helped us to deliver the first steps of our plan.
We were fortunate to receive invaluable guidance and mentorship from a regional support body, SE Assist, who made us aware of the risks and benefits of borrowing. One key highlight was the importance of getting the right people in place. The Bevy hired a staff member with financial management skills to oversee the execution of the business plan, as well as hiring people with a range of skills and backgrounds where they had gaps but retained a strong local representation. Throughout the process we consulted closely with the community to test and gain ideas, and make everything relevant to the prospective customer base.
It’s difficult to articulate our impact succinctly as it manifests itself in many ways that one number can’t capture. Over 70 different community groups use The Bevy annually, as well as providing employment (paying the Brighton Living Wage) and apprenticeships for 8 full-time equivalent local people.
Some of the initiatives run at the Bevy include hosting park runs - encouraging people to be active together, senior lunch clubs – including providing mobility transport to those without it, food education and skills development through using ingredients grown in their on-site vegetable garden.
As well as the traditional food, drinks and bar snacks, The Bevy has developed a diversified range of revenue streams including cookery courses hosted in The Community Kitchen, function and venue hire, a revenue share partnership with a local brewery to promote their products and even referral and hosting fees for a dementia café being piloted with the NHS.
The Bevy has ambitions for the future; exploring investing in developing the flats above into affordable homes to grow their impact with profits accruing into a fund that will be invested into other local projects.
Taking on investment takes time, and it can be difficult. It takes time to grow a strong community business in an area like Bevendean and Moulsecoomb. Given the pub had been shut by the police, the promotion and marketing had to be a priority to spread the message of what the new community-owned pub was going to feel like. It’s difficult, social investment isn’t a silver bullet – there has to be a relentless focus on making a pub fit for the community it serves.