Bid to save village pub

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A PUB regular is launching an ambitious bid to save his local.

The Old Courthouse in Westfield had been on the market for around two years, but finally closed its doors last month after the landlord failed to find a buyer.

But John Allwood believes that if villagers pulled together and each bought a stake in the pub, the popular hostelry could be saved.

The 57-year-old, of Westfield Lane, St Leonards, said: “There are a couple of options.

“Either you find a dozen fairly wealthy people prepared to put money in, or better still set a small price and sell loads of shares and buy it as a co-operative and get a tenant in to run the place.

“I have noticed over the last few years that a number of co-operatives have got together to buy town and village locals, with reasonable success.

“I have no idea if anyone else feels that way, so I wanted to put my toe in the water to see if there are any like-minded individuals who think the same as I do.”

It won’t be the first time villagers have stepped in to save their local.

The Salehurst Halt shut without warning in November 2005, sparking anger amongst residents who raised a 300-signature strong petition to try and save it.

Rescue came in the form of teacher Gail Augarde and Karen Collier-Keywood, who took over in 2006, turning the Halt into a thriving community pub.

Speaking about the Old Courthouse, John said: “Over the last year I got to know Andy, who ran it, quite well.

“I think it’s a very sad thing for him to lose it and I think it’s sad for the village too.”

John’s bid to reopen The Old Courthouse is being backed by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA).

Peter Page-Mitchell, area organiser for Sussex CAMRA, said: “When Andy and Lynne, long time CAMRA members, first took over the pub, real ale did not previously feature so within a very short time two and then three beers were on offer.

“They were able to encourage their ever-increasing local drinkers to try any beer on offer - strong or weak, light or dark - and so the pub was awarded South East Sussex CAMRA Pub of the Year.

“Each August Bank Holiday a mini beer festival was organised and proved hugely popular and successful with the choice of beers on offer always noted with considerable anticipation and excitement, something not often repeated in these parts.

“Many successful CAMRA meetings were held in the pub and I do know the pub was popular with several local organisations and will be greatly missed if not re-opened.”

Anyone interested in helping save the Old Courthouse should call John on 07527076987 or e-mail saveoldcourthouse@gmail.com