Keep the Upton White Horse Running
The Upton White Horse is the longest established community owned pub in Norfolk. We managed to survive the covid closures but like many others have struggled in the face of an ever increasingly difficult trading environment. This has been driven by the cost of living crisis, multiple increases in mortgage interest rates, food price inflation and the downturn in trade that has resulted. The poor summer weather didn’t help us either. While we are doing everything we can to improve the company’s trading performance, we have now reached the point that we may have insufficient financial resources to survive the winter months. So without an injection of money we face the real prospect of closing our doors for good.
Pubs close all the time – why we are different
We are genuinely a community pub. Upton is a small village of around 300 households on the edge of the Norfolk Broads alongside the river Bure. We are not on a through road or have a regular bus service to our nearest town only 2 miles away, so our older residents or those without access to a car can easily become isolated. The heart of the village has always been its pub. If the walls could talk there is many a tale that can be told!
In 2012 the White Horse free house pub was threatened with closure after the long serving landlord decided to retire. The community came together and created a Community Interest Company (the White Horse Development Trust) with a Board of Directors who volunteered to take on the task of keeping the White Horse running. The Trust managed to secure the necessary funds to buy the site and have run the pub for the last 11 years. In 2015 a community shop, open 7 days a week, was added by converting some of the pub outbuildings. This has been a valuable part of village life for over 8 years filling the gap left when the previous village shop /post office closed.
The community pub and shop together are an important part of our village life offering much more than somewhere to buy essential supplies and the odd treat or to have a meal and a drink. They provide a safe space where people can relax and enjoy the beautiful environment within which we live without the need to use a car. For some, if they were not here, village residents would have no independent access to shop or pub facilities. Enabling our residents to remain in the village environment they have enjoyed, often for all their lives, for as long as they can is very important. For our other residents who increasingly work at home or in the nearby Norwich or Gt Yarmouth, they are a place where you can meet other people from the village and form social connections that otherwise would be difficult to achieve. Reducing social isolation is important in our modern world and the pub and shop play a real part in enabling that for our village residents.
Tourism is an important aspect of the local economy. We are fortunate to live in a beautiful environment. There are local businesses that rely on tourists and having a pub and shop that can be referenced in the listing for that holiday cottage or when planning stops on the river, makes that wider offer more attractive in a very competitive market.
Visitors to our village are important for us so we pride ourselves on being attractive and welcoming. A friendly face and a chat is always on offer. Essentially the pub and shop are places that exist for our residents and visitors to our village. We are genuinely here for the community.
What we have tried so far
We have an active programme of events to ensure we are offering what our customers, both residents and visitors to our village, want. We host regular quizzes and live music events, offer a varied and well regarded menu to tempt our diners, have a large garden which makes us very child and dog friendly, a changing menu of ales and ciders as well as all the usual beers, wines and spirits. We employ a small core of experienced front of house and kitchen personnel who ensure we offer a high standard of service and use volunteers to support them through maintaining the grounds and buildings and to staff events such as our annual beer festival.
Our community shop has an employed part time manager but the significant majority of shop opening hours are delivered by a small team of dedicated volunteers. This combination of employed experienced staff supplemented by volunteers helps to keep our labour costs under control. Working hard with our suppliers has also helped to mitigate some of the inflationary pressures we are all facing but we are a small fish in a big sea with limited ability to negotiate significantly better deals.
Despite our best efforts (which are continuing) to boost sales, improve margins and control our costs, we have been incurring losses which means we are experiencing a real pressure on our finances. The last two years have been very difficult for the UK hospitality trade, and many pubs have been forced to close. We have survived so far. We are asking our community shareholders to help but the time has come that without a real show of wider support, we fear we will not be able to continue to operate beyond the winter.
How you can help
We need good old fashioned cash. Any sum no matter how small will help. We need to be able to meet our cash flow obligations, fix the roof and complete other essential maintenance. In the past we have made enough money over the summer to survive the quiet winter months. The poor weather and very difficult trading conditions mean we do not have that buffer this year.
Please support us in any way you can. If community and keeping communities thriving is important to you, and you can spare a few pounds, it will make a huge difference to us. Thank you for your interest and support.
If you would like to know more about us please see:
Or contact our Board of Directors – [email protected]