This page is initially populated with questions raised at the public meeting on 4 April 2019, but will evolve over time, both as further questions come to the fore, and as the answers become better informed by the march of time.
If you would like questions added to this list, please email.
How will the Oak be divided between shop and pub?
There was a plan in the Business Plan which showed the pub in the existing left-hand bar and the shop on the right. Having considered many options beforehand, this was the default arrangement until recently when the shop managers and several of their customers expressed a strong preference to see the shop on the left, avoiding the differences in level on the right.
The layout is currently being re-evaluated in consultation with the shop, and it may well be that the original plan will be reversed, but no decision is being made until we are able to get inside the building and conduct a thorough inspection. It is a complex issue, with many considerations: disabled access, the relation of shop and pub to café and garden etc. Anyone is free to comment in the meantime.
Is the valuation of the Oak still valid?
There have been suggestions from some quarters that the valuation of the Royal Oak in the Business Buyer’s Report of October 2018 is no longer valid. The suggestion is that the business is no longer a going concern and that the value has therefore dropped to a lower tier.
At the request of Triodos Bank, one of our major funders, the Oak was revalued in July this year by the same valuer. On this occasion the value was set £35K higher than previously. This was in full knowledge of the trading history and taking current conditions, including Covid-19, into account. The pub still satisfied the conditions of a trading business as defined in the survey.
With this in mind the valuation is still valid in the view of an independent specialist pub valuer recommended to us by Plunkett Foundation. Therefore, the purchase of the pub still represents good value for the community.
What will be the look and feel of the new pub and shop?
Carolyn and Jo have given much thought to both the stock and the appearance of the shop once it is installed in the Oak. Carolyn’s answer to this question at an HOTV meeting was “closer to a farm shop than a convenience store” The aim will be a friendly and welcoming environment. It is likely that the shop and the café will be side by side.
Likewise it is intended to make the pub primarily a friendly place where everyone can feel comfortable, not too formal, wellies and dogs welcome. The picture will become clearer as the plans crystallise. We would be very glad to hear from you in the meantime as to what you would like to see in either pub or shop.
What if I can't afford £100?
The minimum share holding to qualify as a Member of HOTV is £100, but several people have told us that they think this is too high a threshold. The rules we have adopted prevent us from changing the minimum for voting Members, but the last thing we want is to exclude people who would like to be involved. We’d like to make it clear therefore, than anyone can buy one £25 share to become an Associate Member. This makes you a part of HOTV: you can come to meetings and make your voice heard. You are free to buy more £25 shares later, and once you have £100 worth you automatically become a full Member, entitled to vote.
How will the Heart of the Village guarantee an increase in custom and business growth?
Naturally no guarantee for the increase in business can be given. However, by engaging and energizing the community and making them part of the venture it is anticipated they will be more committed to its success. Growth which has been estimated conservatively, will come from establishing a reputation in the community and beyond.
The shop has already increased its turnover massively. This is partly due to the special circumstances of the pandemic, but also in large part to the enthusiasm of the managers and the involvement of volunteers. We anticipate that the pub will see a similar boost when it is able to trade without restriction.
What would happen with the skittle alleys? Would the pub still be able to accommodate large teams within the pub?
The skittle alleys are seen as integral to the future success of the Pub. We are keen to improve facilities for skittlers, both in terms of catering and in making the skittle alleys less cramped, possibly by removing the division between them. We would be very keen to hear from skittle teams as to any suggestions or special requirements they might have.
Where have the financial trading figures come from, and do they take into consideration both the Royal Oak and the Village Shop?
The financial figures have been derived from the actual accounts of both the Village Stores and the Royal Oak, looking back over the last three years of business.
How confident are you of sustaining the three businesses profitably?
Once established there is little doubt that the businesses can be sustained. The Plunkett Foundation has supported several hundred community ventures, of which none has failed following start up.
Do people have the expendable income to be potential customers? Who is going to be there? Who will work there?
How people choose to dispose of their expendable income is their concern. However, by providing goods and services locally (inc. Paypoint), at reasonable prices, a local market will be sustained. Remember this is a venture answerable to the community, who will no doubt have input on sales policy.
It is anticipated that there will be a tenant and/or manager as permanent paid staff for both the Shop and the Pub, supported by volunteers.
Is the pub worth the asking price?
This has been a very Frequently Asked Question, and it deserves a straight answer.
It is true that the Oak has been on the market at £345K for a long time and has not sold, so you could see that as an indication that in current market conditions it is over-priced. On the other hand the independent Buyer’s Survey commissioned in late 2018 by the HOTV group found the business was worth £375K as a functioning business and compared with the sale of similar trading premises this is believed to be a fair price.
The fact is that £345K is the lowest price which could be agreed in advance with the owner and their mortgage holder, and it is the price in our Business Plan on which all our calculations are based. We have had many discussions on whether or not we could press for a lower price, but the advantages have always been outweighed by the disadvantages, the reality of the situation and existing commitments.
Why did we lose the Post Office? Would it be possible to operate a PO within the shop?
This is under consideration. One thing that needs to be understood before taking a decision on this is the relationship between Paypoint and Post Office systems, which we are told are not compatible.
Do I get my money back if HOTV does not succeed?
Well it will succeed of course (it has to), but the short answer to the question is yes. Read on for the longer answer —which is an update to section 4.4 in the Business Plan.
In the unlikely event that we do not raise sufficient money through the share offer, and were unable to buy the Royal Oak, all investors would have their money returned in full. Only when we are completely confident that we have the funds to buy the pub and take things to the next stage would we start spending significant amounts the money that has been invested. Before that, we may spend a small amount to help generate further funds or to put in place contingency plans for transferring the shop, but this would be less than 2% of total invested funds.
Will the HOTV be a registered charity? Will it be expected to pay rates?
HOTV is not a charity, it is a Community Benefit Society registered with the Financial Conduct Authority. It is non-profit-making in the sense that any profits will be ploughed back into improving service or into the wider community, with just a minimal dividend being paid to shareholders if the business does well.
Based on our understanding of the rates assessment, and the current assessments of both the shop and the pub, HOTV could expect a full rebate of rates for both businesses. The prospects for renting accommodation are not yet known, however it is likely that the accommodation would be used for any future manager or tenant.
What will happen to the jobs of the current employees of the pub?
Depending on the type of contract in place, TUPE rules (Protection of Employment) will apply. In any case there will be a need for continuity and the support of existing staff in paid roles.
Could another use for consideration be that it was used for a drop off point? For example, internet shopping?
This is a constructive suggestion that certainly warrants further consideration.
Will there be paid members of staff? Is this included in the profit & loss forecasting? Are there already examples of combined shop/pub viable businesses?
Yes, salaries have been included in the proposed P&L.
Yes, there are existing examples that have been supported by the Plunkett Foundation.
What were the numbers from the survey for volunteers and contributors?
In the original survey of April 2017, 113 people listed themselves as volunteers and 172 as contributors.
Will the business pay dividends from any profits?
Any profits realised from the business will be ploughed back into the business to improve services or to support other projects in the community. A payment will be made annually which is effectively the interest on the money invested, this is at the discretion of the Members’ Committee and is restricted to a rate of between 2% and 5% above Bank base rate.