Beginning a campaign

Is your beloved pub under threat of closure, or closed already?  Want to save it but don’t know where to start?

Pubs are closing up and down the country and in many cases it does not mean the pub was a failing business. It simply means that your treasured local is worth much more to its owners in an alternative use. But all is not lost, campaigns to save pubs have been fought and many have been won. On this site, we’ll give you the information you need to put up a good campaign for your pub. But where to start?

Campaign committee

To begin a campaign, you should look to form a committee but this need not have formal roles and responsibilities. One or two dedicated passionate people are worth more then 30 hangers-on who contribute nothing. Pick your team carefully.

You will need:

  •  An unquestioning belief in your cause
  • A plentiful supply of efficient and competent volunteers
  • Good political support, at least from local politicians
  • Sustained and engaged media interest
  • Tenacity, stamina and staying power;
  • Plenty of beer and wine in the fridge plus crisps and chocolate, for those dark times when you feel like quitting
  • Some advice from others who have been in your shoes (that’s us!)
  • A great deal of luck

So, let’s get started….

Information gathering

The key currency at the beginning of a campaign is information. You need to find out several crucial things, and fast.

  • Who is the owner?
  • Has it been sold? Check with the Land Registry at https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/land-registry
  • To whom?
  • What are their plans?
  • Are there any planning applications submitted? Check on the Council website.
  • Is the pub in a conservation area?
  • Is the pub listed with Historic England? (Grade I, Grade II or Grade II*)
  • Is the pub locally listed with the Council? Check on the Council website.
  • Any celebrity connections? Who drank there? Anyone famous?
  • Has the press been informed?

This information will help you know what you’re up against.

Campaign to-do list

  • Knowledge is power. Read our Protection Tools and Planning sections to find out what weapons you have in your armoury.
  • ACV.  Even though this is one of the protection tools, it’s worth its own mention.  Get your pub nominated as an Asset of Community Value.  The ACV scheme offers protection for the use of the land as a pub, and shows that there is local support for the pub to remain.
  • Local media. Publicity is key! Talk to newspapers, radio stations, bloggers, reviewers. You need to keep your campaign in the public eye and in the spotlight.
  • Social media and website. You need to be able to communicate efficiently and effectively with your supporters. Set up a website and Twitter and Facebook so you can cast the net wide and keep people updated. Make sure you post regular updates but only when there is significant news to report or when you need people to do something. If nothing is happening, nothing is happening. Pub campaigns often involve a lot of waiting around.
  • Contact politicians. Start with the Ward Councillors but also include other prominent Councillors in your local authority or even the neighbouring authority if they are pro-pub or willing to speak up for your campaign at the Council. If there is a Mayor or civic leader, you should write to them as well. Then work up to the local MP (in London there will also be an Assembly Member). Bear in mind that a local MP has no more influence over planning matters than you do. It is a matter for local elected Councillors and duly appointed officers. Nonetheless, your MP can write to the Council on your behalf and stress the public benefit of any campaign. They might also take up policy issues with the relevant Minister in parliament.
  • Build up a relationship with Council officers. This will require a certain amount of tact and diplomacy. Officers are the professional employees of the Council and are invariably busy and facing shrinking budgets with rising workloads. It is not fair for your campaign to monopolise their time but you will be able to make their work easier by acting as their eyes and ears on the ground. Tell them what is happening at the pub. Provide photographs, details on the planning history, enquire of them if any ‘pre-application’ planning discussions have taken place with the owners. See if you can establish an arrangement where they will contact you as soon as any planning application is received. Officers will also be able to talk you through any Pub Protection Policy the Council has in place.
  • External organisations. In addition to contacting Protect Pubs, you may wish to contact your local branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA).  The Plunkett Foundation and The Pub is The Hub are two charities that specialise in helping communities fund a pub purchase and set up the necessary structures to run a thriving community local.
  • Other pub operators. It is a common myth that pubs close because they are failing businesses and people do not use them. There are a variety of reasons why pubs close (why not visit our myth-buster page). If you are to ensure the long-term survival of your boozer, you will need somebody to run it and operate it. This might be a community organisation but is far more likely to be a private business operator. Start making contacts with local breweries, or with successful and respected operators of other nearby pubs. Once you have secured the pub through the planning system, they could just be on the lookout for new premises. Cast the net far and wide.

Words of caution… and encouragement

Pub campaigning is hard. It is often dejecting. Be prepared for the hard knocks and the setbacks. Things may not go your way. But take comfort in the fact that your cause is a righteous and just one, and you are not alone. Far from it. Look at our Twitter account – @ProtectPubs, to get a flavour of the communities just like you, all over Britain, who are battling hard to save their pub.

If you’re campaigning, why not say hello to us! We can give you some words of encouragement, and help you to hang in there.  If you start to lose heart, console yourself with the thought of how nice that first pint is going to taste when you eventually win!  We wish you all the best. Get to it!

Boarded up London pub

The Perseverance, Marylebone