Hudswell pub reopens after community rallies round

Local residents say the George and Dragon in Hudswell has been rescued and re-opened again.

The directors of Hudswell Community Pub Ltd (HCP) say they have kept their promise, made when the pub reopened in 2009 after being taken on by the community, of keeping the pub open and at the heart of the village.

Th promise was put to the test in August this year when the latest tenants announced that they were quitting, giving the board just three weeks’ notice.

This meant that HCP did not have enough time to recruit a new tenant.

Because the tenants owned most of the furniture and fittings, it also meant these were removed, leaving the village with an empty pub and little or no stock.

The board of HCP Ltd said they quickly concluded that while they searched for a new tenant to take on the business, they would have to open and run the pub themselves for a limited period.

Martin Booth, secretary of HCP, said: “The alternative would have been a lengthy closure, which we had promised back in 2010 would not happen again. So, on the day that the tenants left, the community sprang into action.

“Furniture, equipment, and pictures for the walls were mostly  donated, volunteers cleaned and repainted the pub, tidied the garden, replaced weeds with flowers, renovated the donated furniture and cleared out the storage areas.

“The transition team of seven HCP directors worked on securing new contracts with suppliers, purchasing equipment for the kitchen and a new digital till and card machine system. All of this was achieved at breakneck speed, with over 30 volunteers involved and it enabled the pub to be re-opened on the evening Saturday 16th September.”

HCP director Ian Whinray said: “The first night was a great success, with almost no publicity the word spread that the pub was open and villagers, including many who had not been seen  in recent months, poured in.

“The bar was staffed by a combination of volunteers and experienced staff. The new till system, only installed hours before opening, worked well and there was a happy, relaxed and celebratory atmosphere.

“It was great to have our pub back.”

“Our current plan is to run the pub with a core staff team of experienced bar and cellar staff supplemented by volunteers. We have had a great offer from a former tenant and chef to provide Sunday lunches starting on the 24th September and we already have several bookings.

“Otherwise, for the time being the pub will be providing drinks only with slightly restricted opening times.”

Paul Cullen, chair of HCP, said: “Once again we have proved that the community in Hudswell and our friends and supporters will come together to rescue our pub.

“It’s a very valuable community asset and that is loved by the local community and our many visitors.”

The board members say the search is now on for a new tenant.

Martin added: “So far, we have had nine enquires about the tenancy, several of which look likely to turn into full applications. However, we are very keen to cast the net as wide as possible to make sure we that get the right tenant or tenants to take on our great pub.

“Despite the rash of pub closures elsewhere, we are firmly convinced that the George and Dragon is a viable business that will provides a great opportunity for the right person who has the vision, drive and financial acumen to take our famous village pub into the future.”

“Anyone interested should