Villagers unite in fight to keep hold of their Crown
VILLAGERS are joining forces to mount a bid to save an historic pub.
The Crown and Sceptre has served the people of Acol for centuries but owner Shepherd Neame has put the business up for sale and residents fear it may become a private property.
The Faversham brewing firm has been unable to find a tenant to take over from departing landlord Brad Vowles.
With traditional pubs closing due to rising costs and pressure from budget booze, Mr Vowles was forced to hand in his notice last month.
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The pub is on the market at £240,000.
When the news was announced at the parish annual meeting, concerned residents vowed to join forces to keep the Crown open.
In his two years at the tavern, Mr Vowles has invested tens of thousands of pounds in improvements to the pub but trade has failed to pick up sufficiently.
He said: "We've improved the car park, disabled access and redecorated, but there's so many factors working against us.
"Last summer was a washout and we usually get a lot of trade from visitors to Quex and tourists at the airport and caravan park.
"It's a great pub in a lovely spot and we have some friendly regulars so I hope someone will come in and make the investment it needs."
Acol has lost its post office and only shop in recent years – the pub is the only remaining business in the village.
Parish clerk Roy Wade said: "We are currently exploring funding opportunities to help us invest in the pub to keep it open.
"It is at the heart of the community and, other than the parish hall, the only communal facility we have left."
Shepherd Neame chief executive Jonathan Neame said: "We would very much like it to remain a pub.
"We are a business but we're a business with a conscience."
The pub's beer and cider sales have shrunk in recent years, but wine and spirit sales have almost doubled under the present management.
Mr Vowles is at the helm until September and says it is business as usual in the meantime.
"People complain about losing shops in their area but you must use your local or lose it," he said.
"Unfortunately, without the support of the villagers, we cannot keep subsidising the place.
"We would support the community taking the place on as it would be nice to come back to the pub and enjoy a drink with the regulars."