Community saves The Bell Inn

Co-operative & Community Finance’s ‘More Than a Pub’ finance package has helped the residents of Frisby on the Wreake purchase and refurbish The Bell Inn, creating a pub owned and protected for future generations by the community.

As the only remaining pub in Frisby on the Wreake (situated on the Upper Wreake Valley of Leicestershire) owners of The Bell Inn approached local parish councillors when the pub closed its doors in April 2021, due to the lease not being renewed by previous tenants. Following a village meeting exploring the option of purchasing the community asset, ‘The Bell Inn Frisby Community  Group’ was quickly formed with surveys being sent to 382 households in the village and wider rural catchment in May 2021.

Local MP Alicia Kearns with Pub Operations manager Steve Hardy and Pub Manager Lucy Jackson & Gordon Jackson

A positive response to the potential purchase from residents led to the formal registration of ‘The Bell Inn Frisby Community Group Limited CBS’ in August 2021 following ongoing community consultation they produced a Community Engagement Plan in the September. It was at this point that the vision, aims, and values of the community pub were established involving becoming a family friendly and inclusive hub for the community, and extending services to include a daytime café, business hub (with Wi-Fi and printing facilities), and installation of an Electric Vehicle charging point.

A community share offer was launched on 11th October 2021 and after a slight extension of the deadline an impressive £302,000 was raised by the community with help from residents within the Melton Borough area as well as investors from across the Midlands, UK and even a some from overseas (including Germany, Hong Kong, Fiji, Australia and the US through previous residents of the village and family members living abroad).

As well as the purchase of the building the new society intends to refurbish and repair the courtyard area, buy outside furniture, and provide working capital for set up and stock for the bar. The Bell Inn intends for the membership and community to have a real say in the future direction and core values of the pub providing positive social impact, promoting inclusion and becoming a ‘hub’ for the community.

Residents with local Vicar David Harknett

Tony Bird, the Chairman of The Bell Inn Frisby Community Group, said “We have achieved so much in such a short space of time, but there is still a great deal to do. We have already erected scaffolding to give the exterior a facelift and the kitchens are undergoing complete renovation with a view to starting food service on Wednesday June 1st.”

Steve Hardy, Pub Operations Manager added, “We also have ambitious plans for the outside area and the conservatory. We debated delaying the opening, but once we’d completed the bar area and revamped the cellar, we just wanted get the doors open and start trading.”

The supportive loan finance from Co-operative and Community Finance comes from their ‘More Than a Pub’ fund, a loan product created specifically to support Community Pubs, as a legacy to the original Power to Change and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) funded project, led by the Plunkett Foundation. Tim Coomer, Business Development Manager Co-operative & Community Finance said:  “It’s fantastic to see another community take ownership of such an important village asset. I know the committee are keen to be really involved in the pub alongside a new manager and reject it becoming just a destination pub, by offering a reasonably priced range of products that are accessible to all.”

The ‘More Than a Pub Fund’  provides loan finance of between £75,000 to £150,000 available to Community Owned Pubs at a discounted rate of interest for members of the Plunkett Foundation, length of term ranges from five to twenty years. We can also help support groups access grant funding to help get them develop their business plans and pay for surveys, etc… through the Reach Fund. Please contact Co-operative & Community Finance for the full terms and conditions, and to discuss how your Community Owned Pub venture can be supported.