Welsh pub auction as volunteers examine saviour plan

One of the biggest auctions of pubs in Wales has taken place, as volunteers in one Gwynedd community met to discuss taking over their own "local".

A total of 31 pubs were offered for sale but 14 sold before the auction at Newport's Celtic Manor Hotel.

Some were offered as going concerns, while others are closed or were offered with development potential.

The auction was ahead of the first meeting of 100 volunteers planning to run the Pengwern in Llan Ffestiniog.

Grwp Pengwern Cymunedol have agreed a sale price and members hope to hear soon about bids for funding. So far, 150 people have pledged almost £30,000 towards the asking price.

Image caption Villagers now run the Raven Inn at Llanarmon yn Iâl, near Mold

One of the board of directors, Selwyn Williams, expects to see more community-run ventures springing up as pubs close at the rate of 30 a week, according to the British Beer and Pub Association.

He believes the secret to success is to diversify, saying the group's research showed that "traditional" pubs - ones that did not offer food and facilities to attract the wider community - fared worse.

Those sentiments were echoed by Lewis Farnley, one of the committee members who have been running the Raven Inn at Llanarmon yn Iâl, near Mold, Flintshire, for the last 18 months.

He said representatives from several other communities had been in touch to learn from their experiences about potentially taking over their own pubs.

"If anyone thinks this would be a good idea, first get everyone together in the community and talk to them about it," he said.

"You are reliant on volunteer labour."

That was being discussed at Llan Ffestiniog with members of Grwp Pengwern Cymunedol considering the work needed to be done in the hotel and pub and around its gardens, and not just behind the bar.

Meanwhile, Robin Mence, managing director of licensed property specialists Sidney Phillips, said although it was big, Wednesday's pub auction was part of an ongoing process - and did not reflect pub trade - as the company had 120 pubs on its books.

"Part of the reason for this auction is because of continued pub company rationalisation," he said.

Mr Mence added that breweries were looking to sell on pubs with low yields, but conditions were now becoming more favourable for pub tenants.

"An increase in utility cost and many other basic overheads has made former rental levels unsustainable, leading to some pubs closing - this is not a reflection on the pub trade," he said.

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