So here we are again then. You may have noticed that my column was missing in the May We Brits are always optimistic especially when it comes tIn May 2019, the Bell and Bear in Emberton closed its doors. The previous landlords had won numerous awards including MK Chef of the Year and had built a glowing reputation for fine dining and superb beers and wines.
If talent in the kitchen was all it took, they and their pub should have been basking in success. But this is a tough business and despite strong support from the village, the pub ultimately closed. But that is far from the end of the story.
In 2014 the pub was registered as a Community Asset. So, when owners, The Wellington Pub Company, decided to sell up, they had to give the community an opportunity to bid for it. Given the asking price and the state of disrepair, the community knew they needed to raise in the region of £450,000 to make this dream a reality. It was a tall ask. But every village needs a pub, and there’s something about the Bell and Bear that is special. The villagers rallied, dug deep and came up with the goods. 74 investors in total ranging from £250 through to £100,000, gave the village enough to meet the £350,000 asking price with funds in the bank for some remedial refurbishment work. On the 26th August, the deal was finally done, and the team took the keys.
Clearly though, this is where the hard work starts!
The Pub is The Hub
So we now call it ‘Our Bell & Bear’ and soon it will sit again right at the heart of the village. It is a community owned pub – independent and much loved. The plans are just beginning, but that people-centric approach will be integral to our plans. Food and drink will be sourced sustainably, seasonally, minimising food miles, perhaps even grown in our own garden or village. Staff will be treated with respect and paid fairly. We’ll consider the environmental aspect of everything we do. We’ll use the pub beyond just a pub. Perhaps a village shop, a morning café, a social centre, a place for clubs and societies to meet and thrive. Many memories have been made here and we hope many more will be made in the years to come.
Fun Friendly Fresh
A new era, new owners, the pub needed a new face. Luckily one of our pub regulars is a dab hand at design. We asked him ever so nicely if he would help us out. Our new look needed to communicate what the pub is about – we wanted something modern and contemporary, but that kept the idea of a local boozer at its heart. Something fun, friendly and fresh. Glenn Watkiss, you nailed it!
For the village, it isn’t just about raising the money. Now people have to roll up their sleeves and start to make a pub happen. There are four working groups. 1. Groundforce: this lot have already been active, transforming the jungle of overgrown wilderness into something resembling a garden. Many people didn’t even know the pub had a garden. We hope to make this area work really well for us in the future. 2. Get it Open: a short-term, high energy group focussed on minimum requirements to open up. Insurance, stock, staff, legals and logistics. It’s not about the long term plan, it’s about getting people drinking beer as fast as possible! The aspiration, is to make that happen in November this year. 3. Refurb & Revive: this group is all about the future. What can we do with the space we’ve got? What should it look like? How much will it cost? What impact will that have on the business and the customers it attracts? How can we make our Bell & Bear a thing of beauty that will thrive, and put Emberton on the map? 4. Community: and finally, an all seeing group that will constantly remind us about the heart and soul of the project. Is it ethical, is it sustainable, is it for the better good. Is it Bell and Bear? There’s also the management team – the group that so far have co-ordinated, co-erced and cajoled the project into getting this far. They’ll remain in place overseeing the working groups and ensuring everyone meets their goals.
As we mentioned – the hope is to open in November. This will be for wet sales only and may just be Thursday through to Sunday to begin with. Whilst we hope to be properly staffed, you may well see volunteers and villagers behind the pumps in the early days. The pub needs some TLC. The first hurdle is to get the power back on, which requires some substantial rewiring. The roof needs work, the toilets reinstating. Then with some fresh paint and lots of cleaning, we can probably open the doors. Later, we’ll look at restoring the kitchen, refurbishing properly, introducing food and lengthening those opening hours. But one step at a time. For now, cheers and here’s to welcoming you into the Bell and Bear, our Bell and Bear, soon.
How can you help?
Much of the work is now underway at the Bell & Bear and as the project gathers pace inside and out.
However, all the working groups are in need of willing volunteers. We are also looking for another couple of people to join the Management Team.
If you want to help please email:
firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know.