At Hamilton Blake we’re not only about manufacturing, wind energy and architects’ practices. After a hard Friday’s accounting, there’s nothing better than a pint at the local, and we are proud to have played our part in saving the Hare & Hounds pub from closure.
Located in Harlton, south Cambridgeshire, the Hare & Hounds faced an uncertain future in 2017 when the exiting landlord wished to sell the pub off for housing. Horrified at the prospect, villagers gathered and started a campaign to buy the pub as a community asset. With over 1,000 shareholders located within and around the village, the pub is now group-owned and has become a thriving business once more.
Leading the campaign was Patrick Phelan, founder of Energy Business Catalyst, who has employed Hamilton Blake’s accounting services for several years. He asked us to take a look at the books and we were more than happy to help.
‘Pop-up Pub’ events became a key part of the campaign. While the save-the-pub committee were putting their case to the local authorities, the pub remained closed, so the villagers would periodically take over Harlton Village Hall, serving drinks from the hatch and inviting a food truck to pitch up outside each time. There would even be live music to entertain the pub-deprived crowd.
The publicity worked. In September 2017, not more than a year after the previous landlord retired, the villagers announced their purchase of the Hare & Hounds with the £350,000 they had raised. Local MP Heidi Allen said the result was “just brilliant” and the hunt began for a new tenant to manage the operation.
Sadly, many stories like this do not have such a happy ending, with pubs sold off to developers to be converted into or replaced with housing. In 2019, CAMRA estimated that 14 pubs were closing their doors each week, and the pandemic’s lockdowns and distancing measures created further challenges for the hospitality sector, despite government assistance. In a country suffering an unending housing crisis, it is easy to see why public houses would be turned into domestic residences – there’s an acute need, and therefore a sizable profit to be made. In a similar, but far more urban story, The George Tavern – a favourite music venue of mine in London – has seen off developer plans for years with the grit and determination of a steadfast landlady and lots of music-loving campaigners.
The Hare & Hounds now has the look and feel of a modern pub, with a good menu, decent ale selection, and a well-kept beer garden. It is the work of manager Tom and chef Tim, with the consultation of the pub committee – and it was work that needed doing, the pub having languished for three years under the first tenant since its saving. Custom is up, especially in the summer months, where outdoor events such as mini music festivals pack out the garden. Our own Conor and Darryl dropped in for a client meeting there recently and enjoyed the food and atmosphere.
Senior Accounts Manager Max Child, who has handled the Hare & Hounds account, says how Hamilton Blake “were delighted to offer our support to Patrick and the villagers in their mission to save the Hare & Hounds pub and are pleased to see that the pub has gone from strength to strength despite the obvious recent set back being the pandemic.”
He adds, “It’s a pleasure dealing with both Patrick and Fenella (Secretary) with the statutory reporting requirements and appreciate their religious efforts in keeping the pub’s books organised on behalf of the community.”
Hot weather is fast approaching and that means drinks and music in the beer garden. We hope that the Hare & Hounds has an even better summer than the last.