Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Friday, 22 March 2013
Having tried to encourage anyone to buy shares in my local pub - The Bell in Walcot Street, here in Bath - I ought to give you an update as to the outcome of the share-launch offer, which ended on March 20th, a couple of days ago.
The target was £500,000 for share subscriptions, the balance being made up with a bank-loan. About half way through the allotted time, the subscriptions seemed to stagnate at around £180,000, but by 9.00 pm on wednesday, the total had hit £720,000. The final reckoning has yet to be announced, but the estimate is closer to £800,000 - a staggeringly good outcome which means that the borrowing (once the pub has actually been bought) will be drastically reduced, and has the potential of being cleared within a year or two - even allowing for essential remedial work carried out to the fabric - especially as there should be other opportunities to invest in the future.
I think that this is the only example of a city-centre pub being bought by the community it serves (and some it doesn't) on record to date, and should be an encouragement to other small businesses such as post offices and grocery stores, all of which are struggling to survive in the present climate and in the face of opposition from huge chain-stores and breweries with separate companies dedicated solely to property investment, as well as the simple service of providing a pint of beer and a place to drink it amongst friends.
There is a lot more to a good pub than beer, of course (although it helps), and the one thing that The Bell is famous throughout the world for is being an intimate venue for live music. Years ago, it was known as a jazz pub, and some of the all-time greats (like Acker Bilk...) played there. I never used to go there then, because I detest jazz, but each to his own.
Now the music played here has caught up with the times. Van Morrison (when he lived in Bath) once got up on stage and performed a little guest-spot, and Robert Plant has been seen drinking here with his daughter - another some-time regular - so the appeal to celebrities like them and the appeal of joining them as investors seems to have been very popular. Even Michael Eavis has invested, as well as writing an affectionate few lines about how The Bell is become an influential hub for music in the West Country and beyond.
This story - so far - has been a bit like the final scene from 'It's a Wonderful Life', with everyone flocking to the place and throwing every spare penny they have at it, in order to keep it running as the institution they have come to love and depend on, and The Bell has never seen so many outside faces drinking there, who are destined to become regulars too - now that they are actually part of the family.
Part of the appeal of 'It's a Wonderful Life' is the last-minute expression by ordinary people of the appreciation of the real worth and value of something they have taken for granted over the years, but I always end up thinking as the film ends - that would never happen in real life, sadly.
Well it looks like it has happened. Maybe - at last - we can have some decent toilets there.