A community campaign to buy a neighbourhood pub has fallen at the last hurdle – but the new owners are a pub operator which plans to keep the boozer open.
The Greys in Southover Street was put on the market last year, and because it is listed as an asset of community value (ACV), the sale was put on hold for six months to allow the neighbourhood time to raise funds to make a bid.
The Save the Greys group raised more than £62,000, and with match-funding and other grants was able to put in an offer to owners Ei Group which came tantalisingly close to securing them the pub.
But although the offer was accepted in principle, last minute red tape scuppered the sale and it has now been sold to an existing pub operator.
Posting on Facebook, the Save the Greys campaign said: “After a period of intense activity, that seems to have gone on for weeks, and that has had many twists and turns, I must tell you that contracts were exchanged on the Greys for an undisclosed sum late on Wednesday, February 21 between Ei Group and an existing pub operator.
“Whilst we are not able to say who the pub operators are at this stage, I am happy to tell you that they are not a pubco, but rather a small, independent operator, that has one other pub, that sells Belgian beer, American and other Craft Beers and has a busy live music scene.
“Obviously there has been disappointment along the way for Friends of the Greys, as our bid for the freehold was accepted by owner Ei Group but, despite our best efforts, the deal could not be finalised due to imposed deadlines and the insistence that the sale went through an auction contract process. This meant we were being asked to take certain risks, and whilst we asked for more time to ensure safeguards were in place, the extension was not granted and the deadline sadly passed.
“As a Community Benefit Society, we are bound to ensure that your investment is protected, and we were not prepared to commit to a sale that put that issue in jeopardy.
“That said, in just a few months we have built an effective community organisation in Friends of the Greys, and demonstrated there are many people, near and far, happy to part with ready-money to see it survive and thrive, and to get actively involved.
“Thank you once again for playing a vital part in this exciting project. By getting together we so very nearly bought the pub. I salute you.
“The buyers have asked to meet Friends of The Greys over a beverage and discuss how we can work together in the future. It is looking promising.”
The identity of the buyers is not yet known. One operator which fits the description, Bierhaus, said they had not bought the pub.