Bute village launches appeal to buy 200 year-old pub closed by pandemic

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Villagers in Port Bannatyne on Bute are launching a share offer to raise funds to buy – and reopen – their 200-year-old pub.

Their Community Share Offer aims to get the pub operational after it closed its doors following the economic impact of Covid-19. For the next five weeks, villagers – as well as those living further afield – will be able to buy shares in the pub.

The Anchor Tavern has served the coastal village of Port Bannatyne, on the Isle of Bute, for two centuries and is a lively hub of community and activity.

At the start of 2020 there were only two pubs in Port Bannatyne. When the Anchor shut its doors after the pandemic hit, the village was facing the loss of one of the few local indoor meeting spaces available to the community, as well as 200 years of history.

The Anchor was not unique in this regard – more than 200 pubs closed in Scotland during the pandemic, leaving rural communities particularly under-served.

In response, the newly formed Port Bannatyne Development Trust, a small group of residents and homeowners, successfully lobbied the Scottish Land Fund for £150,000 needed to purchase the pub on behalf of the local community.

They now need to crowdfund another £105,000 for the historic pub’s refurbishment. Once refurbished, the pub will provide an important community space for young people, the arts and local history, in addition to its primary purpose.

This is the first time that Scottish public money has been used to support a pub and a community hub on a Scottish Island.

Jon Sear, vice-chair of Port Bannatyne Development Trust, said: ‘We know £105,000 is a lot of money to try to raise for a small village like Port Bannatyne, but we are encouraged by the success of other communities, in particular Knoydart, whose pub Share Offer just raised twice this amount and had to be closed early, despite their smaller population.

‘Our biggest challenge is that we can’t accept more shareholders from outside the Port Bannatyne area than live locally, so unless the number of applications from Port residents exceeds our expectations, we have no choice but to prioritise higher value applications from non-residents.’

After shares have been allocated to village residents, the trust has committed to prioritising applications for £200 or more of shares from other island residents and second home owners, and applications for £1,000 or more of shares from supporters wherever they are.

The society aims to pay investors two per cent interest after year three and is applying to register for HMRC’s Social Investment Tax Relief scheme which offers attractive tax incentives for larger investors.