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Bath's music pub business The Bell pub toasts independence after £600,000 community buy-out

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Written by:   | Posted 01-October-2013 10:31

Almost a year ago it faced being bought by a brewery and filled with fashionable lagers and large television screens.

But after less than 12 months and £600,000 later The Bell, known the world over for its live music and famous regulars, has managed to secure its independence.

At the end of 2012 the Walcot Street pub was put on the market, by then owner Ian Wood, for £925,000.

In no time at all regulars and locals galvanised their efforts to form a community group to save the pub from falling into the hands of a brewery or bar chain and because they did not trust anyone else to run their beloved Bell they had one aim - to raise the money needed to run it themselves.

Manager Patrick Cave said: “There wasn’t time to sit around and get anxious about it - it all happened so fast.

“We held a couple of public meetings to find out what people wanted then there was a whole process of business forms.

“At the beginning of the five weeks we didn’t know what to expect, half way through we were panicking and then at the end we were completely blown away.”

In just five weeks supporters of the Bell dug deep and pledged £600,000, and it is now owned by 536 shareholders, but the most extraordinary part of the campaign was the celebrity endorsement the pub received.

Robert Plant, Glastonbury Festival founder Michael Eavis, and singers Midge Ure and Peter Gabriel all gave their support.

“We’ve become a flagship example of would-be community buy outs mainly because of the record time we raised the money. And it’s not just other pubs but other sorts of community buy outs who have been asking how we did it.

“The feedback has been great people have spoken about the Bell’s brilliant atmosphere. It all seems to be working out really well.”

Mr Cave said there were no plans to change the Bell, which has been named the Bath Chronicle’s Pub of the Year, and based its success and survival on its rustic appearance and bohemian ethos.

“We have a recipe that takes us from strength to strength. The Bell is a quality independent pub offering free live music - we are a vanishing bread.

“Green Park Tavern is closed and Porter is a gastro pub now. Our competition or people doing what we do have vanished.

“We are a non-television screen, non-gambling machine pub. People do actually come here for what they used to come to pubs for - to meet their mates and rub shoulders with new people. What strikes me about the Bell is the range of ages and backgrounds.

“Normally you go into a pub and it’s for this type of customer or it’s that kind of pub.

“We play to our strengths we have delightful, relaxed bar staff. We have a huge musical network thanks to the Bath Fringe Offices out the back.”

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