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The Star of Greenwich: A local pub making the community a nicer place to be

Case study

19th April 2024
Co-op development
The Star of Greenwich
Musicians and customers enjoy a folk music night at The Star of Greenwich

Discover how a small boozer in the heart of London’s East Greenwich is fostering a happier, safer community by bringing diverse people together.

With the gentrification of many parts of Southeast London, the hidden away neighbourhood pubs are becoming fewer and far between. 

That’s one of the reasons why it was important to save The Star of Greenwich – formerly The Star and Garter. After an incident there in 2021, the pub’s licence was suspended. It closed and soon the freeholder decided to sell up. 

“As it’s an asset of community value, they had to put out a notice to do that. A couple of us regulars saw the notice and went about getting a moratorium on the sale of pub,” recalled local resident James Gadsby Peet. 

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The pub has been around since the 1820s and for most of that time it has been an important part of the community. It’s the last of the side road kind of places that were once so common in the area.
– James Gadsby Peet, The Star of Greenwich

The team rallied for support in the local area, including from their MP and councillors – and were able to prove to the freeholder the value of preserving the pub for the community. 

“We did surveys and held online and in-person public meetings – and used that to demonstrate that if the pub were sold to be turned into flats, it would be a loss to the community.” 

As part of a small team of three, James and his colleagues set up a community benefit society (CBS) and came up with a business plan. “It was to run it, not just as a pub, but also as a community centre. The freeholder bought into our vision and we negotiated a lease.”

With a successful crowd funding campaign that raised more than double their original target, the team re‑opened the pub in April 2023. 

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We took on The Star of Greenwich with the aim of making it a place where people meet other people they wouldn’t normally run into, in an incredibly diverse neighbourhood.
– James Gadsby Peet

“Research shows that vibrant, safe, happy communities are ones where people with different backgrounds, opinions and experiences spend time with each other. In building new and diverse relationships, the community becomes a nicer place to be.” 

To help James and his colleagues get their project off the ground, they were awarded support from the Business Support for Co‑ops programme delivered by Co‑operatives UK in partnership with The Co‑operative Bank. This came in the form of advice and consultancy from Dave Boyle and Lenny Watson, working through the Community Shares Company

Dave visited the team in Greenwich, talked them through the industry and helped them develop their business plan, financial plan and feasibility study. “I was massively aided by working with Lenny from Sister Midnight, Lewisham’s first community owned music venue. Lenny did loads of stuff with the group at the early stage,” he said. 

“Dave’s been fantastic in helping us get to where we are. He’s seen a hundred community pubs, whereas we’ve only seen one, so he gave us a broader perspective on the challenges we face and opportunities there are,“ said James. 

“He helped us develop a strong business case that we’ve been able to take to Community Ownership Fund (COF) to apply for funding to purchase the building in the future. 

“We also used various resources off the Co-operatives UK website, especially in the early days of setting up. And we’ve used their Co‑op Economy report to support our business case. Our story was included in the latest Co‑op Economy report, which led to us being featured on the BBC!“ 

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If it wasn’t for Co-operatives UK and Plunkett Foundation, working together in the way they do, we wouldn’t be here. We’re volunteers and without their help, there’s no way we would have been able to open, let alone be open for a year.
– James Gadsby Peet
The Star of Greenwich pub exterior

To realise their mission of bringing people together, The Star of Greenwich now provides lots of community support, in addition to selling booze and holding quiz nights. 

The pub hosts conversation classes for refugees to learn English. They’ve partnered with Avo Cuddle, an organisation that offers kids play classes, which take place in the pub’s community room. The team are also working with the Lewisham Be Well Hub, which helps support mental health across the borough by providing spaces to bring people together.

“The London Marathon runs down the end of the road. Our first day of opening was marathon day, so we held a big event with lots of different people coming together,” said James. “We also host book clubs, parents’ groups, a regular folk music evening and had a summer party for a local residents’ association.” 

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It was always much more than a regular pub. It always had a strong community around it. Our aim is to make that community broader and more accessible.
– James Gadsy Peet

Greater accessibility will also mean giving local people the opportunity to buy shares in the pub and have a say in how it’s run – as James and his team are now planning a community share offer to take the pub into community ownership. 

With funds raised from the share offer and their application to the government’s Community Ownership Fund, they hope to buy the premises outright and continue to build on their good work. 

Community ownership under the CBS model was a natural choice, as it fits with the team’s aims: “Other organisations have to generate profit. We can make decisions that aren’t profit driven, for example we can give away the hire of the rooms to groups and charities for free.

“The way the pub is run is driven by what people want, from the drinks we serve to the activities we host and what we do with the rooms. We’re driven by what people suggest. And eventually we will be more democratically run, when there’s an ownership element for the community too.” 

The team’s ambitions also stretch to renovating the pub’s existing bedrooms to provide offices, co-working and event spaces for local people, who are pleased their pub is back on the map.

“The re-opening has been very well received. Our ambition has always been to provide a space for everyone. There are lots of different places in Greenwich where pockets of people spend time with others just like them. We’re offering an alternative – and we’ve met a lot of people who had never been here before.” 

Find out more

The Star of Greenwich – Website | X | Facebook | Instagram 

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