When people started protesting about the abrupt closure of the Dyke Pub in Brighton the owner asked where were all these people when it was open. Whatever he did, he claimed the pub lost money and as he liked antiques he would sell furniture there instead. While this highlights lax planning laws, where pubs can be closed, demolished or turned into supermarkets without so much of a planning application it also misses the point that with the local community in control, the Dyke Pub could become so much more than just a pub and attract people that would never normally set foot inside a boozer.
There are many people who use the Bevy that never went into the old incarnation. That’s not to say there wasn’t some great things happening in the old Bev, and some of our best events have come from recycling some of the events that used to take place.
But a very brief snapshot of this week shows how we have become more than just a pub.
On Wednesday the Bevy was bursting with children and their parents watching films they had made as part of the Hijack childrens festival; a talk about organ donation as part of our link up with the Community University Partnership Programme while the student rugby club we have sponsored for the season popped in. The day before children were learning to cook in our training kitchen, feeding parents and siblings at the end of the lesson.
Then there’s the regular community choir, parkrun, art and craft club and of course the Friday Friends where last week 36 elderly residents enjoyed fish and chips, bingo and a laugh.
The Bevy also relies on a volunteer committee and supportive punters to keep costs down. This week there’s been grouting in the toilets, painting of the walls, storage cupboards cleared, washing machines plumbed in and a new brick wall built for cost. Our local business connector linked us up with a recruitment company who helped us for free and we’ve got design students looking at – well designing materials for community pubs.
Of course the Bevy is still a place where you can pop in for a pint or get a home-cooked meal at an affordable price (have you tried our weekday lunchtime offer?), but it is also a community centre. With council services disappearing, the local pub has the opportunity to step up and deliver some of those services – which is good for business, but also most importantly, good for society tackling the loneliness and isolation that is now so prevalent. Winning the Brighton and Hove community business of the year award shows we must be doing something right.
* If you want to find out about the Dyke Pub campaign https://www.facebook.com/savethedyke