IN SIX days the country’s first community-owned pub on a housing estate in the UK will open.

The Bevy, in Hillside, Brighton, has been a four year project ever since it was closed by police following a string of violent incidents back in 2010. Reporter BEN JAMES went to meet manager Chris Pobjoy for a first look inside.

THE Bevy is not your average boozer.

Yes, you can get a pint of Harveys and a packet of crisps and chat away at the bar.

Yes, you can enjoy a meal and flick through the papers before heading up to the Albion.

But this is the mere tip of the iceberg at the Bevy.

Closed by police in 2010, the Bevendean as it was then called, has endured a difficult few years.

But a few determined locals refused to let a small group of troublemakers take away their pub.

They started, what at the time, seemed like an impossible campaign to reopen four years ago.

Their vision was to return the pub to the community. Through shares the community would own it and all profits would be ploughed back into local projects.

That vision will be realised on Friday when it opens.

Mr Pobjoy, who ran the Argus Achievement Award-winning Romans pub in Southwick until October last year, took over as manager just nine weeks ago.

Speaking yesterday, the 55-year-old said: “I hadn’t seen myself getting back into the pub trade but when I was approached and when they told me about the history of the pub and the work that had gone into saving it from developers, I bought more and more into it.

“The support for the project has been fantastic – that’s really what swung it for me when deciding whether to take it on. We have 700 shareholders here and fantastic backing from the community.

“And that’s what it is all about, pubs should be at the heart of the community.

“It’s a bit of a glib statement but with a good community pub you hatch, match and dispatch. You have christenings, weddings, wakes and all the good bits in between.

“That really brings the staff and management close to the community.

“I was at the Romans for 10 years and I felt so close to the community when I left and I’m expecting it to be exactly the same here.”

The whole ethos of the Bevy is about the community and creating a hub for that community.

Shares sold to community By the time the doors open on Friday, £250,000 will have been raised through grants but mostly through the 700 shares sold to the community.

As a result the community owns and will be directly involved in the decision making and running of the venue.

Unlike most pubs, the Bevy will serve a number of functions. Firstly it will be a pub: somewhere to meet friends and enjoy a drink. But it will also have space for community groups and sports teams to meet and will be a place of learning thanks to the community kitchen.

But where it differs most from other community boozers is that it will run as a not-for-profit cooperative. All profits will be ploughed back into the pub and the community.

Their first events are already booked. On Thursday, a day before their official opening, students from Brighton Aldridge Community Academy (BACA) will take over the kitchen in the morning. Under the guidance of academy head chef Ricky, they will cook a two course meal for 40 elderly residents.

Mr Pobjoy said: “They are going to cook it, we are going to serve it and the elderly residents are going to eat it.

“When the students are finished and they have cleaned down we want them to go and sit at the table with the elderly people so they can talk with them. It should be really nice.

“We want to make links with as many local groups as possible and we are going to be doing a lot more with BACA which is just up the road.

“We are already talking about training courses and student placements and work experience and all sorts like that.”

When The Argus visited yesterday half a dozen workmen were still painting, polishing, cleaning and fitting in time for opening.

While it is not yet finished, it is certainly starting to take shape.

Walking through the front door, the bar sits directly in front of you. Harveys Best will be the house beer with Harveys Old Ale and Wild Hop also on tap for the opening.

The pub will also have a Sussex guest ale on rotation, the first will be from Bartleby’s Brewery in Hollingdean.

Close to the bar there is ample seating and tables with more furniture to be bought in the new year.

To the left round the back of the bar is the second main area of the pub: the community meeting room. Designed for groups to hold meetings, there will be a value rate for those who can afford it and it will be free for those who cannot.

Among the groups already signed up or expected to hold meetings include a residents’ association and a local health group. Simon Kirby, MP for Brighton Kemptown, who is one of the 700 shareholders, is also in talks about holding some of his regular surgeries there.

Pub and cafe Back through the bar and to the other side of the pub is the cafe. Complete with state-of-the-art coffee machine and food counter it will serve a variety of hot drinks as well as jacket potatoes, sandwiches and snacks.

At the back of the pub is the community kitchen which can be hired out by schools and other groups. Once a chef is hired the pub will also sell homemade hot food.

Mr Pobjoy said: “Our two main trading areas are the cafe and the bar. People can sit in either space and enjoy an alcoholic beverage or a coffee or they can have something to eat. The spaces are designed to be fluid.

“The community kitchen is going to be fantastic. It will be used to train people through want to work programmes and the like. The Food Partnership is also going to run nutrition programmes and teach people how to cook healthy food.

“In addition to that Albion in The Community, BACA and City College are all going to be running programmes in the building whether it be back to work schemes, vocational training or something else.

“We are always going to have something going on.”

This weekend will see the pub’s soft launch ahead of the grand opening on Friday, when the Harveys dray cart and horses will deliver the first ceremonial barrels at midday.

Father John Wall, of St Andrew’s in Moulsecoomb, who has supported the project for many years, will then bless the bar ahead of the first pints being pulled.

Mr Pobjoy said: “This has very much been a community effort and there are so many people who deserve a mention.

“East Brighton Trust and in particular Terry Woollard has been fantastic as has South East Assist.

“Harveys has been great and Langham Brewery and the Brighton Bier Company gave a lot of advice early on.

“Heineken also helped and they gave cellar equipment to us for free.

“And of course Bartleby’s who gave us free beer – and delivered it by bicycle.

“I also need to thank the Plunkett Foundation, Legal and General, the Phone Co-op and Scotia Gas Networks.

“They have all donated their time or given us something for nothing which is really amazing and helps us out no end.

“Others include GX Signs, GG Fencing who did all our fencing and of course our shareholders.

“We have also had some fantastic individual support from the likes of Rod Aldridge who has been behind us all the way.”

After four long years and many hours of hard work, what initially appeared to be a distant dream is set to be realised.

But for Mr Pobjoy, this is just the start. He said: “We hope that as the Bevy moves forward and succeeds with this community ethos we can be a template that can be used in other parts of the country.

“I’ve been bombarded with other licensees asking me questions and there is no reason this can’t happen elsewhere.

“This is an opportunity for community pubs on housing estates in Manchester, Newcastle, Liverpool, Birmingham, London and elsewhere to do exactly the same.

“If there is a troubled pub in a hard hit part of the country, everything should be done to try and save it for the community. It’s better than it being a supermarket – what does that offer to the community? Nothing.

“How great would it be in five years time if there were 30 or 40 Bevy-style pubs all over the country.”