GENEROUS Dinton villagers who saved their local pub from extinction are hopeful the community-owned watering hole can go from strength to strength in 2012.
The Seven Stars spent 10 turbulent years under the ownership of Punch Taverns, with 10 different landlords and several closures during that time, until it was put up for sale in April last year.
A group of 65 local stakeholders donated more than £400,000 to help beat off competition from rival bidders, who they feared might change the use of the 16th century building.
The takeover was completed on November 16 and the Seven Stars saw in the new year under experienced landlords David Berry and Stephanie Guiraute with business on the rise again.
“So far it has gone very well and we have had some very positive responses from the villagers and shareholders,” said Ms Guiraute.
“A lot of them have been saying ‘we’ve got our pub back’ which is great to hear.”
Since the community bought the pub it has been drawing in the punters, with a number of Christmas parties and a fully-booked restaurant for New Year’s Eve.
Ms Guiraute, who is originally from France, has even been able to bring some continental influences to the kitchen, which she says the customers enjoy.
She said: “They love the bit of France coming in here and I think it is good to have something a bit different, although we do also still support the local suppliers.”
Once the bid was accepted in July the group took out a loan to help finance the deal and were awarded a grant of nearly £50,000 by the European Agricultural Fund’s Leader Programme to assist with paying back the debt.
Dick O’Driscoll lives opposite the pub and helped raise the necessary funds, asking local residents for up to £10,000.
“It seemed a lot to ask but knowing how much was needed we had to go for it,” he said.
“It is for the community and something we did not want to lose from the area.”
Mr O’Driscoll said it would have been a ‘disaster’ for all the stakeholders to try and run the pub, although a small group did keep the bar open for two months. He added that Mr Berry and Ms Guiraute’s 42 years of combined experience made them the ‘ideal choice’.
“It is up to them to make it successful and I’m sure they will,” he said.