In November last year, I got involved with a campaign to save a local pub from demolition and replacement by a two-storey McDonald’s Drive Thru.
Over Christmas, I got involved with their ‘business team’ to try and establish a business plan to re-open the building as a pub and music venue and established a potential break-even scenario, with cash flow forecasts and investment plans. I spent time getting business management advice, and fed this back to the group. This is where it started to go wrong.
I needed to ask questions about potential grants, investment schemes, financing models etc., but was continually told “this is in hand” – without any details. Frustrating for both sides. In the end, I was told that some aspects were not “fucking important”. Developing a business plan without information is quite tricky.
Some background on me – in 1992 three of us started a self-financed business which we grew and eventually sold in 2004 after getting turnover up to £8M p.a. Part of that process involved understanding what’s needed to make a successful business, so I felt I had something to contribute here, especially as much of the campaign group consisted of musicians, music enthusiasts, and by their own admission, not a lot of business skills.
After some abuse, I left the ‘business team’ – the group did find someone else who is continuing this work, proving the maxim that no-one is indispensable.
I was still involved in their main Facebook group and would comment on processes – with an upcoming planning application, and little material objection that can be raised, I felt that something else would be needed. An English Heritage listing for the building looks unlikely, so something called a ‘Pub Protection Plan” seems to me (and a local councillor), a main hope to save the building.
Objections on the grounds of not wanting a takeaway are unlikely to carry any favour with the council, after all – there is extensive evidence that McDonald’s have had detailed conversations with the local council about road access, local amenity etc., why would they do that without reasonable expectation of success?
So, the Pub Protection Plan appears to be a good way of stopping McDonald’s in their tracks, but this idea has been rejected due to the potential costs. In addition, I received abusive messages from members of the group accusing me of capitalist intentions, amongst others.
I am happy to speak my opinion, I’m not one to keep quiet. But, I was once told the phrase “no-one gets in trouble for keeping their head down and saying nothing”. Maybe it’s better to say nothing then?
But, I won’t stay somewhere where you are abused for your opinion with un-substantiated accusations that are irrelevant. Maybe I’m too old and intolerant now, but I do believe that life is too short.
What these people don’t seem to understand is that making a profit is essential for any business, be it McDonald’s or a local pub and music venue. A music venue will not operate on grants alone. Holding a few music lessons won’t save the building. It has to make money – in fact, as we all do.
Maybe some of those criticising me have a mentality of living on state benefits, but the money even for them to live comes from someone, somewhere, making money.
So, after the abuse, I’ve left the group. This was a closed group, and even my comments in the public group have now been deleted and I’m blocked from posting there again.
Maybe what killed it was my suggestion that supporters put their hands in their pockets to support the Pub Protection Plan and invest in the Community Interest Company that has been created.
Maybe they don’t like people who talk of the reality? Reality isn’t always nice, the facts have to be faced, otherwise once McDonald’s put in their planning application, it’s far more likely to be an inevitability than a possibility.
While I don’t want a McDonald’s in my town, simply getting a petition and demonstrating, won’t actually sway the planners – they have to work to guidelines. McDonald’s might step away, but profits speak louder to them than upsetting a few musicians.
As an example, here is a rough financial business plan with cash flow. Even starting at £17K/week turnover, the business struggles to remain cash flow positive (and this is based on getting the building for free!).
If the campaigners are serious, investment and putting money where their mouths are will be needed.