Four years after the first steps were made to save an historic village pub from demolition, regulars have celebrated its first anniversary under new ownership.
The Fox and Hounds, in Denmead, closed in early 2012 and the owners of the building put in an application to demolish the nearly 120-year-old landmark and build four large executive homes.
Horrified by the thought of losing the much-loved pub, regulars got together and came up with a plan to save it.
They formed a co-operative and with pledges, donations and community shares totalling more than £200,000, and with the help of a commercial loan, they were able to buy the building and register it as an Asset of Value to the Community, which meant it was protected from demolition.
Having secured the freehold of the building, landlords Steve Pratt and Angie Ryan stepped in to run the pub business and it has been going strong ever since.
Rob Stark, who led the campaign to save the pub, said: ‘It doesn’t seem a year since we opened the Fox and Hounds after two-and-a-half years of battling to raise the money to buy and rebuild it.
‘Our Friends of the Fox anniversary event was attended by over 100 people and was a great way of celebrating.
‘The pub reopened on December 4, 2014.
‘We didn’t want to interfere with the December trade so held it this month.’
Steve and Angie sold their home and their business to take over the Fox and Hounds.
Angie said: ‘We’re really happy with the business and happy that we took the risk.
‘We invested everything we had and we’re delighted with our first year.
‘The investors have been very supportive to us.
‘As well as the regulars, we have lots of customers from outside the area who just enjoy what we do here.’
The co-operative owns the freehold on the building and investors make their money back through the rent paid by Angie and Steve’s business, S.A.D Pubs.
All those who invested more than £250 and donators over £50, became members of the Friends of the Fox Club which entitles them to invites to exclusive events and trips.
Interest of more than three per cent was paid out to investors earlier this month.
Rob added: ‘Our co-operative model has become something of an example nationally for other communities that want to save their pub. Many have tried but also failed.
‘Our business model is simple and seems to be working well, which is not bad in the current climate.’