The George freehouse stands at the centre of the village of Bethersden in Kent. It has been a drinking establishment since the 17th century and became a licensed pub in 1841. For decades, it has been the social centre of village life and locals refer to it as ‘the heart of the village’.
Following the pub’s closure in 2020, local residents came together to form ‘The George Community’ with the aim of saving and reopening it as a community enterprise.
On 11th July 2021 the group applied to the FCA to form the Community Benefit Society and The George Community Limited became a legal entity on 2 August 2021. The group also began organising a number of successful pop-up social events – both outdoors and at the village hall – to try to both keep the community spirit of the pub alive and begin to raise funds to help mount a bid to buy the premises. To read more about these events, visit the News section of the website.
With the support of Ashford Borough Council, Bethersden Parish Council, the Plunkett Foundation and local MP Damian Green, a successful share offer was launched at the end of November 2022 which raised £300K in just a few weeks. With part-matched funding from the Government’s Community Ownership Scheme, the purchase was agreed and The George Community took possession of the pub at the beginning of February 2023.
There followed several months of external and internal refurbishment before the pub reopened – serving drinks only – at the end of May 2023. A day time cafe service began at the end of June, with plans to start serving food as soon as a major kitchen refit is completed.
Having saved this precious village asset for generations to come, the aim is to redirect future profits back into the community.