Regulars at the Medway Queen pub
A pub has become Medway’s first place to win special protection under community ownership laws.
The Medway Queen has been officially declared a “community asset” - which gives regulars six months to save it from becoming a supermarket.
The pub in Street End Road, Chatham, shut in June and locals Andy Bristow and Bobby Beck have already spent £20,000 re-opening it.
Dozens of residents also rallied round to give the 1967 pebble-dash building a lick of paint.
But despite their efforts its owner, Enterprise Inns, is in talks with Morrisons, which wants to turn the pub into one of 300 “M Local” mini-supermarkets.
Barmaid Clare Wilkie with Cllr Sam Craven (Lab)
This week’s landmark decision means Morrisons cannot buy the lease or the building until residents have submitted a rival bid. They have up to six months.
Wayfield councillor Sam Craven (Lab) said: “This is excellent news and shows the real side of the ‘big society’.
“This pub is not just a place to drink, it is a community hub for people to meet friends and build a social life. This shows real communities working together.”
There is no guarantee the bid will be successful.
The new status gives residents more time, but Enterprise can still sell to Morrisons in six months if the supermarket chain offers more money.
Mr Bristow said: “We’re only the second public house in the whole of the south east to be granted this status. It’s a big step for us so we’ve just got to hope the brewery will give us a fair crack of the whip.
“They’ve got to furnish us with the same terms that have been offered to Morrisons so at least we’re on an even playing field.
“We’ve increased turnover by at least 30%. Obviously we’ve had a good period of weather but that aside, there’s a lot of pressure in the community that they want to keep it as a pub.”
The government signed the “community right to bid” into law last year to give residents more power over their favourite buildings. This week’s status was granted by Medway Council.
Morrisons spokesman Laura Stubbs said: “We’re in the early stages of discussion about bringing a Morrisons M local to Chatham.
“We look forward to sharing our plans with the community, should things progress.”