Gwynedd community work together to save historic pub and create jobs
When Llandwrog’s village pub, Ty’n Llan, closed its doors and was put up for sale, villagers could not have imagined that a few years later they would have the opportunity to buy it and reopen it as a thriving business.
Records show that there’s been a building of some sort on the plot now occupied by the pub since the 17th century. The current Grade II-listed building has existed since the 1850s, as part of Lord Newborough’s vast estate.
The most recent managing tenant left the pub in 2017, leaving the village with nowhere for the community to meet, socialise and celebrate. Over the next couple of years, despite being put on the open market by its owner, the building didn’t sell; and then the owner passed away, leaving her extensive property portfolio to a number of charities.
By February 2021 the pub was listed as a probate sale and the price was reduced – and villagers wondered if they could protect it from being turned into a private residence by coming together to raise enough money to not only buy Ty’n Llan, but reopen it as the thriving community hub it had once been.
Llandwrog’s tightly-knit community formed a committee and with it, an action plan. The first step was to form a community benefit society and ask the wider community for help in the way of ‘loan pledges’. Written offers of loans ranging from hundreds to many thousands of pounds poured in so quickly that within a few days the community had more than enough in the virtual kitty to make an offer on the building, which was accepted.
Now for stage two: the community share offer. There was a six-week period of intensive social media activity, and Welsh celebrities including Dewi Pws, Mari Lovgreen and Rhys Ifans were persuaded to make videos supporting the venture. Amazingly, the share target was reached – in fact, exceeded – so quickly that the pledged loans were never actually needed.
Shares were sold at £100 each, and must be retained by their owners for a minimum of three years. Anyone can buy shares, but if under the age of 16 they must be held in trust by a parent or guardian. Since Menter Ty’n Llan is a community benefit society rather than a business, ‘shareholders’ are in fact ‘members’ and, accordingly, can vote on whether or not the society pays out dividends. And of course, the pub has to turn a profit before dividends can be considered – but according to committee member Wyn Roberts, people generally don't invest in these things to make money; they do it because they want to support a local enterprise for the benefit of the community.
Now in possession of a slightly dilapidated pub, a central committee and several sub-groups were formed so that plans could be made and renovations could take place. Volunteers were recruited to clean and paint the pub and do odd jobs, and a local builder volunteered to fix the leaking roof. The whole community worked together to ensure the pub could be opened again – albeit just serving drinks for the time being, although food is very much a part of future plans; an application is being developed to build an extension at the back which will be developed as a restaurant and a bigger community facility than it is currently.
By mid-December 2021 Ty’n Llan was finally able to open its doors after being closed for four years. And typically, it was just a week before the Boxing Day Covid restrictions kicked in, meaning the pub’s capacity was reduced for a spell.
Despite that setback, Ty’n Llan is now fully open again, and fully staffed; unlike many other local businesses, the pub has not struggled at all to find willing employees. And the future looks bright: in addition to the existing regular events at the pub, which include a walking group, a sit-down exercise group for older people, and a ‘panad a sgwrs’ session every Friday, there are plans for live music, a regular quiz night, Welsh conversation sessions for learners, and something similar for French, Spanish and Italian.
The villagers are rightly proud of what they’ve achieved, and there’s a board in place with a wealth of relevant experience, knowledge and commitment to the future running of a valuable community facility.
And Wyn Roberts is keen to point out, “It’s succeeding and it’s going well; we want people to know that social enterprise works, and a community benefit society works for us. We were able to save a community pub and turn it into more of a community facility and it’s now up and running, trading, and doing well – so why not pop over to say hello?”
For more information about Ty’n Llan, please visit their website at https://tynllan.cymru/