The Bell’s future was in doubt in late 2012, when the previous owner put the property and business on the market. Two packed public meetings helped create the momentum which has now seen the pub “owned by people who love, live and breathe The Bell” with £700k raised through community share
The Bell is a much-loved freehouse in Walcot Street, Bath, converted from an eighteenth century coaching house. The Bell features live music three times a week, ranging from jazz to folk and roots music.
The Bell Inn (Bath) Ltd was established as a co-operative society. The co-operative structure was felt to best reflect the ethos and community of The Bell. It was also the easiest way to undertake a community share offer.
The pub is now being managed professionally and the previous staff team including the manager for the pub has been retained.
Wendy Matthews, one of the Directors, says that community ownership has already created quite a buzz locally. “I hear people in the street saying, ‘Have you been to that pub, the one that’s been taken over by the locals?’” she says. Encouragingly, turnover has increased since the community campaign began.
How did they raise the investment?
The shares were made available in February 2013, less than two months after the meeting which first discussed the community buy-out, and the offer closed in April 2013.
The minimum investment was fixed at £500, on the basis that a lower minimum would probably raise less capital in total. The Bell Inn now has 538 investors with £787,495 capital raised, and the average investment is £1,463.
Share investments are locked in for three years and interest will depend on the profitability of the business, but the aim is to pay between 5%-7% pa.
The success of the share issue has meant that the vast majority of the asking price for the property has been funded from within the community. The group has secured a Lloyds Bank loan for the remaining capital needed. A second share issue is contemplated once the business has been established.