Yorkshire residents rally to save spirit of local pubs and bars

Lucy Cordukes at the Angel on the Green.
Lucy Cordukes at the Angel on the Green.
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FOR CENTURIES, they have remained at the heart of the communities that they serve.

And now, it would appear, those very communities are giving a little back to ensure the nation’s pubs and cafes can thrive for years to come. A succession of co-operatives and community-led companies have been formed to take control of venues, with Yorkshire at the forefront of the movement.

The latest venture involves a private limited company of 12 members of the community that has been set up to run The Angel On The Green on one of York’s most prized high streets, Bishopthorpe Road.

The cafe-bar opened at the start of December in Cycle Heaven’s former showroom after the bike shop moved to Hospital Fields Road, off Fulford Road, although it has kept a workshop behind The Angel.

Manager Lucy Cordukes, 44, has lived in the neighbourhood for most of her life, and claimed The Angel is aimed at becoming a venue for the community, and has already been used for meetings by a housing co-operative.

Miss Cordukes, who used to work at The Slip Inn in nearby Clementhorpe, said: “There is a real vibrant community spirit here, and everyone involved in The Angel lives close by. In the world we are living in, I think it is important that people want to give something back to their community, and that is what we are hoping to do.”

Figures from The Plunkett Foundation, which promotes and supports co-operatives and social enterprises, have revealed that there are now 44 co-operative pubs in the UK, up from just three in 2010. The foundation’s chief executive, Peter Couchman, told The Yorkshire Post there are now more than 100 communities battling to buy their pub.

He claimed this year has proved to be a “real turning point” and his organisation is now dealing with a growing number of inquiries from groups hoping to set up co-operatives.

Mr Couchman said: “With so many pubs being lost, communities are fighting back by setting them up as community co-operatives. Yorkshire has a proud tradition of valuing and saving their local. We hope that many more Yorkshire communities will secure their pub for future generations.”

One of the most successful co-operatives in the country has been established in North Yorkshire, which saw The George and Dragon in Hudswell, near Richmond, rescued through a community buy-out.

The pub closed in 2008 
after the owners went bankrupt, but regulars formed a co-operative to buy and renovate the business before it re-opened in 2010.

The George and Dragon now offers facilities including a library and shop, and is one of the four finalists in the Campaign for Real Ale’s Pub of the Year competition. The winner will be announced in February.

Other community co-operatives have been launched in Yorkshire to run The Fox and Goose Inn in Hebden Bridge, The Foresters Arms in Carlton, North Yorkshire, and The Golden Ball in York. Among those who set up the co-operative to run The Golden Ball is Pete Kilbane, who is also involved in running The Angel On The Green.

He said: “Co-operatives are proven to work, as the communities they serve are behind them. We have seen the benefits in York, and hopefully the success will spread.”

THE DECLINE of the nation’s pubs is well-documented, with the rising price of a pint largely driven by high excise duty.

The Campaign for Real Ale has warned there are 21 pub closures nationally every week, and the 2016 Good Pub Guide put the average price of a pint at £3.46, a rise of 15p on the previous 12 months.

But the growth of community co-operatives has given hope more pubs can be saved. A co-operative pub can distribute profits to members as a dividend, re-invest the cash into the business or distribute it via community projects.

The popularity of craft beers has also seen a fall in pub and bar companies going out of business in the last 12 months – down from 521 to 480.