A historic village pub saved from destruction by its community is finally set to reopen after almost two years closed.
The George Pub in Bethersden, near Ashford, has been transformed by a group of residents following a mammoth effort to raise more than £300,000 to buy it.
The 300-year-old freehouse, described by many as the "heart of the village", shut in October 2021, with the building put up for sale.
Fearing the pub could be demolished or transformed, a group of like-minded residents came together to form The George Community, with the aim of raising enough money to reopen the inn as a community asset.
Efforts were aided by a government pledge to match any money raised up to £250,000 – meaning £300,000 raised would result in £550,000 in total.
Small fundraising events were held at the pub across 18 months, but with an end-of-year deadline looming the group launched a Community Share Offer, with anyone able to purchase up to 80 shares of £500 each.
Now, the group has confirmed that after months of work, the reopening date is just around the corner.
A spokesperson said: “It’s the news you’ve all been waiting for: we are planning to reopen the doors of the George at 1pm on Friday 26th May!
“The final redecoration and fitting out are taking place so, subject to all final checks and approvals being received, we will be pulling that first long-awaited pint in the public bar at around 1pm on the 26th!
“More news on our opening times shortly but we really can’t wait to welcome you back inside The George!”
This month’s opening will only see drinks poured, with more work needed on the kitchen before it is ready to serve food.
A raffle for the “honour” of recieiving the first pint pulled at the pub will be held ahead of the opening to raise money for the kitchen refurbishments.
Tickets are £2.50 or five for £10, and are available from tomorrow (Tuesday, May 16) from Marchants, The Post Office General Store and Vibez hairdressers.
A spokesperson added: “If you are available at 1pm on the 26th and are happy to be photographed and filmed for publicity, then all you need to do is buy a ticket for your chance to take a place in history!”