Crichie group members’ fact-finding tour

Bottoms up: (left to right) Geoff Ewing and Sandy Scott present'Stephen (licensee) and Julian in The Old Crown with a selection of Scottish Real Ales.
Bottoms up: (left to right) Geoff Ewing and Sandy Scott present'Stephen (licensee) and Julian in The Old Crown with a selection of Scottish Real Ales.

During the weekend of May 8 and 9, four members of the Crichie Community Inn Steering Group (CCISG) went on a special fact-finding mission.

The members visited three successful community-owned establishments - the Walk Inn in West Wemyess in Fife and The Butcher’s Arms and The Old Crown, both in Cumbrian.

The Walk Inn is a licensed café Bistro run by a few paid staff with many volunteers.

They raised £450,000 in grants from the Big Lottery Fund to buy and renovate the property.

In contrast the Butcher’s Arms is a traditional pub, which was purchased and modernised by the local community.

This was funded partly by grants, but mainly by the sale of £300,000 of shares in the property.

The Old Crown is believed to be the first co-operatively owned pub in Britain, opening in 2003.

They had a very successful community share issue, which raised the full asking price.

Both Cumbrian pubs are owned by the community and are leased to tenants who run the businesses.

Julian Ross, who led the bid by customers to take ownership of the Old Crown, said: “People say they don’t care about making a return on their investment.

“They want to preserve something that is important for the community. This is a cosy, friendly pub, which you can go into whether you’re wearing your wellies, walking boots, or a suit, and you won’t come out without speaking to someone. Regulars and visitors alike always find a warm welcome, great home cooked food (including the famous Old Crown curries), a friendly smile and a truly superb range of real ales.”

Geoff Ewing, secretary of CCISG says “Having tasted their hospitality we can confirm this to be true.

“It was pleasing to see a wide range of people and interaction between young and old. The most important point learned was that a community buy-out is not only feasible, but is also of benefit to the community, helping to generate local employment and foster community spirit and pride.

“ If they can do it, why can’t we?”

Full details of the visit can be seen on the website www.crichiecommunityinn.org.uk/

Anyone willing to help with any aspect of the CCISG project can contact Geoff Ewing at crichie.cisg@btinternet.com or chairman John Ollason at john@houseofdeer.co.uk