The Duke of Marlborough is a 500 year-old inn located in Somersham, Suffolk.
Its owners wanted to retire and sell up, but the prospect of redevelopment threatened this vital community asset with permanent closure.
The big idea was to let people buy shares in their local pub to keep it a thriving business that benefits the whole community.
Because the project involved buying property, it needed to raise a lot of money quickly.
So Sarah decided to offer Community Shares: everyone who pledged would be a part-owner of a Community Benefit Society and have a say in how it’s run.
This galvanised the local community into action, and also made it attractive to larger investors who could claim 30% tax relief when investing for three years.
The project gained the support of high-profile hospitality professionals, driving pledges from investors far and wide. After 75 days the project raised £186,570 from 167 investors, and The Duke was saved.
Pledges ranged from £250 to £100,000.
Smaller pledges were also rewarded with things like engraved glasses and an invitation to the opening party.
For some larger investors, the prospect of returns on profits and tax relief on their investments was enough to win their support — in fact in fact 167 investors pledged £186,570.
In the press
The campaign featured prominently in the local press to drive support within the community, and the project team also spread the word far and wide, gaining endorsements from the British Guild of Beer Writers, Cask Marque, Beer Day Britain and the Society for Independent Brewers.
Work has begun to ensure the pub appeals to individuals, couples, families, groups, organisations and businesses as well as drawing in tourists.
Activities ranging from quizzes and live music to wine tasting and beer festivals will help build the Duke’s reputation as a fun pub to visit.
Plans are also afoot to extend the outdoor area and create a play space for children.
What they said
“With pubs closing at an alarming rate across the UK it is fantastic to see communities purchasing their local pub rather than see them lost forever,” said a spokesperson at the Campaign for Real Ale.
“All the community-owned pubs created in the last ten years are still trading, because they’ve become much more than just pubs," said Dave Boyle, Director of CommunityShares.co.uk.
"They’ve responded to what local people want. The Duke is another brilliant example this.”
Tips to project owners
“This was the first community pub project on Crowdfunder, so it’s great to have proven that it works so other community groups can replicate it," said Sarah Caston, Project Chair.
"You should definitely consider the Community Shares route. People like knowing they have a say.
"And because of the tax relief, as well as the local support that makes a viable business, it really appeals to larger investors too. "This is why we pushed the campaign to trade contacts, writers and events.”
• Visit Sarah's project page to find out more about Save the Duke