Community support needed for Berwick pub to prosper

The January lull is proving problematic for a Berwick pub which reopened last month as a community-backed social enterprise.

Saturday, 28th January 2017, 7:33 am
Mark Dodds, Jim Herbert, Paul Waddington and Jason Thompson at the Brown Bear pub on Hide Hill in Berwick. Picture by Jane Coltman

The Brown Bear on Hide Hill has now been open for six weeks but since the decent Christmas and New Year period business has been slow.

No doubt it is a pattern familiar to other traders but it’s all part of the steep learning curve for the team at the helm.

“It’s been a very interesting period,” admitted project manager Mark Dodds. “We did reasonably well in terms of trade in December but it’s been very quiet since the New Year.

“That’s not exactly come as a surprise because you would expect trade to drop off at this time of year but it’s presented us with a few cash flow difficulties so we still need investment. The place isn’t in danger of closing but it’s a serious issue.”

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Part of the problem should be rectified soon when the kitchen is fully functional.

“We’ve been able to do snacks but we’ve been severely limited on the food front until a problem with the kitchen was sorted out,” said Mark.

“We’re hoping that will be done over the next few days which will be really important for us. Food was always going to be a big part of what we’re about.”

He is talking to potential investors and would gratefully accept donations of mirrors or paintings – and even advice – from customers.

However, he is heartened by the team of locals, in effect, a board of trustees, he has got in place.

“They’re a really enthusiastic bunch and that is really important because I want them to feel some sort of ownership of what we’re doing.”

They are developing ideas all the time, including a fortnightly quiz, and there are plans for farmers’ markets and arts and crafts events in the huge space at the rear of the premises.

“We want the place to be much more than just a pub,” said Mark. “We want it to be a real community hub where people can go for a drink or bite to eat but equally a social space where people can relax and talk to friends.”

The formalities of establishing a formal social enterprise structure are still proving a frustration to Mark but it will happen in time, he says.

“The principle remains the same as before in that any profits will be put back into the pub,” he explained.

The social aspect of the business is shown in that it is paying staff the minimum Living Wage of £8.45 per hour. There are also plans to be a fossil fuel free pub in due course.

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