The future of The Windmill is now in the hands of the people as an ambitious bid to buy the popular local is launched.
A minimum of £300,000 needs to be raised through a community share offer to make the dream of reopening the pub a reality, and campaigners are hopeful of meeting this target following a groundswell of support to save it.
The pub on Windmill Hill officially ceased trading in March this year after the owners failed to find a buyer to take it on. A subsequent planning application to convert the premises into flats has been refused by Bristol City Council and the current owners are supportive of the community bid to buy it – provided the money can be raised. A pop-up shop has been operating in the pub since the coronavirus outbreak.
“The Windmill is an important lynchpin of community life. It is the reason many people have moved here and remain here,” says Miriam Venner, chair of the Save The Windmill Campaign.
“The hope is that we will reach at least the minimum needed and we will put in an offer for the pub.”
People packed into the pub for a public meeting in December 2019 to discuss its future and pledge support for the bid to save it. Members of the campaign group have been working behind the scene ever since to garner views from the wider community and make preparations to launch the share offer.
They have already got support from the Plunkett Foundation, which works to help community businesses, but say time is now of essence if they are to buy the Windmill. They sought inspiration from a similar successful bid to save Bristol Ferry Boats around seven years ago.
They have written a detailed five-year plan and hope to turn a profit after one year, even after re-forecasting due to the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.
Owner Mike Cranney, who also runs the Lazy Dog on Ashley Down Road and formerly the Pipe and Slippers on Cheltenham Road, told the meeting in December that the pub had been running at a loss. But the Save The Windmill Campaign group have plans to use the building to its best potential, with ideas that include offering cafe options by day, as well as the more traditional pub fare and community events.
Miriam believes there will also be an added incentive for people to use the pub if it is owned by the community.
The campaign group says: “We believe the Windmill is worth saving as it is the epicentre of the Windmill Hill community and would be a great loss to the area if it were not to remain as a pub.
“We think this is a great time to be launching such a community initiative as the recent Covid-19 lockdown has highlighted the importance of community – here in Windmill Hill we’ve certainly seen the community really pull together to help each other through. It also gives the local community something positive to focus on over the next few months.”
The aim is to raise £550,000 overall for the purchase, refurbishment and initial operating costs. This will be raised through the community share offer, as well as from grants, loans and possibly a mortgage – which has already been agreed in principle.
The share offer will run for six weeks, with shares starting at £50 for under 25-year-olds and £100 for over-25s. In order to meet the target, the group is recommending individuals invest £300, and there is a maximum investment of £25,000.
If the campaign is successful, a management committee will be elected by members to oversee the running of the pub and the intention would be to reopen it as soon as possible.
Miriam says the overarching aim is to ensure the pub is community-focused and very inclusive.
Find out more and buy a share via www.crowdfunder.co.uk/windmillcommunitypub.