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How a village saved their pub - and are now turning a profit

PUBLISHED: 18:12 28 July 2019

The Case Is Altered, Bentley, Suffolk. Picture: DAVID VINCENT

The Case Is Altered, Bentley, Suffolk. Picture: DAVID VINCENT

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Fve years ago the villagers at Bentley bought their village pub, the Case is Altered. Here's what happened.

The Case Is Altered pub in Bentley is celebrating five years in the ownership of the village. Volunteers behind the bar Kim Eastall, David Eastall and Jenny Lingard. Picture: DAVID VINCENTThe Case Is Altered pub in Bentley is celebrating five years in the ownership of the village. Volunteers behind the bar Kim Eastall, David Eastall and Jenny Lingard. Picture: DAVID VINCENT

It was a step into the unknown for the community.

But now that £230,000 community investment is paying dividends - literally.

Other villages are looking at following their lead, and not just in Suffolk.

It is not only a financial success,

The Case is Altered pub, Bentley has been in the ownership of the village for five years. Dave Lingard, who organises regular mic night music events, by the sign on Saturday. Picture: DAVID VINCENTThe Case is Altered pub, Bentley has been in the ownership of the village for five years. Dave Lingard, who organises regular mic night music events, by the sign on Saturday. Picture: DAVID VINCENT

A group of Bentley villagers, lead by David Westley, came up with a proposal to buy the pub from Punch Taverns after it closed in March 2013.

And in January 2014 they bought the pub for £220,000, reopening it in April that year.

Kate Spicer, chairman of the committee which runs it, says it has brought the village together and is real community hub.

The former primary school teacher said: "We have a lot of volunteers. It is a team effort, and people have made new friends.

Singing and dancing in the garden at The Case Is Altered, Bentley which has been in the ownership of the village for five years. Picture: DAVID VINCENTSinging and dancing in the garden at The Case Is Altered, Bentley which has been in the ownership of the village for five years. Picture: DAVID VINCENT

"Regular activities include a monthly lunch club for our seniors. We have a team of three looking after our cellar, a team of three looks after the buying from wholesalers, another team do the maintenance and odd jobs, and our main volunteer gardener is supported by a team of 15 to do the spring and autumn tidy up.

"A sub committee looks after our annual events such as our summer garden party. Another team keeps the pub supplied with flowers for the tables and two computer techies look after the website and Facebook."

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She added: "I had no experience of pubs or running a business but working with the volunteers has been absolutely brilliant."

Co-operative treasurer Peter Cross was another of those who came forward with an offer of support when the rallying cry went out.

"It is very difficult for village pubs to survive," he said. "Village pubs find it difficult with overheads and staff costs."

The Case is Altered, however, has bucked that trend, thanks to the 200 investors who put up the money to buy the pub.

Mr Cross added: "We have always made a profit, and re-invested it in the pub. We have invested in excess of £100,000 since we have been going.

"We have been able to buy back 10% of the shares and pay a 3% dividend this year. It is the first dividend for investors.

"We haven't put prices up either."

Kate added: "Could this be one future for rural pubs? It does depend on the generosity of those people in the village and the team spirit.

"At the moment it is doing very nicely."

The Case Is Altered model is being followed by others in Suffolk, Essex and Kent, including Stockbury in Kent and The Cross at Great Bromley, Essex.

Mr Cross added: "Other villages are talking about wanting to follow us."

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