A small north Yorkshire village pub which was saved by its local community after going bankrupt has been named the best in the UK.
The George & Dragon, in Hudswell, closed in 2008 after the owners went bust at the height of the recession, but regular customers formed a co-operative to buy and refurbish the premises. The pub reopened in 2010.
The Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) has now given the George & Dragon a top accolade, naming it national pub of the year.
When the pub closed it left the village with no other facilities for residents apart from a village hall. Within two years, the community banded together to form the Hudswell Community Pub group and raised £220,000 to buy the asset back. Following extensive renovations the pub was opened again, in June 2010, by William Hague, the former local MP, Tory Cabinet minister and now life peer, who is also one of the 205 shareholders.
Today the George & Dragon provides a hub for community life, with a library in the corridor and a convenience shop selling milk, eggs and newspapers. It offers community allotments and free internet access for patrons.
The pub beat off competition from 52,200 others to clinch the award, and is one of only 70 community-run pubs. Camra’s judges hailed its “warm and welcoming atmosphere and strong community ethos”. The award recognised the “great passion” for quality beer of the landlord, Stuart Miller, along with his range of real ales and cider. The pub, whose beers are predominantly sourced from Yorkshire breweries, was visited by the Prince of Wales in September 2015.
“The George & Dragon is a great example of how a pub has been resurrected as a true community asset,” said Paul Ainsworth, Camra’s coordinator for pub of the year finalist. “To go from closed doors to winning national pub of the year in just a few short years is a fantastic achievement for any pub – and all the more impressive for one that is cooperatively owned.”
Miller, who realised his lifelong dream by taking over the pub in July 2014 and is now helped by members of his family, said he and the community were thrilled to have received such a prestigious award. “It shows that hard work, good beer and the support of the community can help you achieve goals that seemed impossible only a short while ago. Since we took over the George & Dragon in 2014 we’ve strived to achieve our vision for the pub … To be appreciated for these goals by our customers and Camra is extremely satisfying and makes all the hard work worthwhile.”
James Alcock, general manager at the Plunkett Foundation, which provided support and funding for the pub, said: “Community-owned pubs such as the George & Dragon are an exceptional example of how a community can succeed in running an enterprise. Within a short space of time, a community has rallied together in order to save a vital village resource and have now been rewarded for all their hard work.”
For the awards, pubs are judged by Camra on a variety of criteria such as atmosphere, level of service, value for money and community focus, with extra weighting given to the quality of their real ale, cider and perry. All nominated pubs in the competition are independently assessed by a panel of Camra volunteers throughout the year.
Runners up this year were the Swan with Two Necks, in Pendleton, Lancashire (which won the Camra national award in 2014), the Salutation Inn, in Ham, Gloucestershire, and the Stanford Arms, in Lowestoft, Norfolk.
Cheers! Pub saved by its customers rated best in the UK – The Guardian