Hundreds of residents are expected for the official reopening of a well-known village pub this weekend, with optimism for its prospects high after its acquisition by the community.
The ribbon will be cut on The Kings Head in Pebmarsh on Saturday afternoon, with the help of many of the 375 community shareholders who helped purchase the dormant business on behalf of the village, by pledging approximately £300,000 in £50 shares.
The pub has been closed for five of the past eight years after the previous two tenancies ended, and its future seemed uncertain when the last owner retired unexpectedly in September 2016.
But Peter Hele, of Pebmarsh Community Pub Ltd, which now owns the business, says the groundswell of public support and the new ownership model gave them every confidence the pub would be a success.
“This time last year, they were pretty dark days,” he said. “But the strength of the community has really come to the fore.
“The pub is such a heartbeat of the village. Last winter, when the days were closing in and the lights were off in the pub, it really felt like a sombre place.
“Now the winter evenings are drawing in, the lights are on and the parking spaces are being filled up – it really lifts up the rest of the village.
“It’s a community effort and the community has made this all possible. Without them, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”
The effort to reopen the Kings Head has also been supported with funding from community support organisations, such as the Plunkett Foundation and the Pub is the Hub, as well as a grant from Essex County Council’s community initiatives fund.
Mr Hele explained the key difference for the pub this time around is its ownership by a not-for-profit community benefit society, meaning all profits must reinvested directly into the pub, and all shareholders have equal voting rights, regardless of the number of shares they own.
The company has appointed Debbie and Stuart Fraser, who also run the Thatchers Arms in Mount Bures, as tenants, and essential repairs have been carried out to the building and the car park.
Mr Hele added: “As long as the product is good and people get a good welcome and we do the right community activities, we have every confidence that it will be a great success.”
He added that, over the long term, they hoped to add other features to the pub, based on the results of a village-wide survey conducted earlier this year.
The grand opening event will take place on Saturday at 3pm, with live music and street-style food on offer.