Just as the children of Dunlop, Ayrshire were celebrating the end of the school year in June, another group of locals were celebrating the start of a new adventure as Dunlop’s last remaining pub, Merito, became the first community-owned pub in Scotland, writes Martin Doherty.
Eighteen months previously, Merito had been put up for sale. A group of friends, concerned that Dunlop would lose its only pub and real ale outlet, decided something had to be done to save it.
Whilst the previous owners had put in a great deal of work improving the bar and restaurant, the upper floor had lain unused for many years. This area offered great potential for further development and a community buyout would ensure any development would benefit the community. Space could be used for community activities and social enterprise, generating income for the whole community with any profits redistributed to other local groups.
The owners agreed to wait for the group to put together an offer and the group went to work. Dunlop Community Hub was created, the community consulted, more people drafted in to help flesh out the vision, and an application for funding made to the Scottish Land Fund.
Almost a year after the idea of a community buyout was suggested, the Hub received its funding and their offer to buy the pub was accepted.
With the handover of the keys at the end of June, the first steps of turning the pub into a community-owned social enterprise were taken. There is a lot of hard work ahead before the vision can be fully realised but the initial stages have been encouraging and the Hub team have been very grateful for the help of other local community groups and individuals.
Having retained a working pub and restaurant, the priority has been to ensure both continue to run well. Since the handover, both restaurant and pub have proven very popular with the local community, and it has also been visited frequently by local CAMRA members.
Plans are afoot to build on this success with several special events, new menus and guest beers whilst the old favourites such as two for one pizza Wednesday and Sharma’s Street Food curry nights will continue. The pub continues to have a handpump serving real ale from local breweries such as Ayr Brewing Company and Kelburn as well as other guest ales from further afield.
Further details on the Merito Dunlop Community Hub Facebook page at ww.facebook.com/Merito-Dunlop-Community-Hub-1772189856183502/
Merito officially celebrated the community buyout on Saturday 15 September.
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