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So, erm, abject stupidity then?

Radical pay-what-you-can restaurant faces eviction from mill it refurbished
The Long Table says it took thousands of hours of work to turn derelict site into a community space, but landlord has now sold it


Tom Herbert, the co-founder of The Long Table, said the community had ploughed in thousands of hours of work and as much as £300,000 in cash over three years in order to transform Brimscombe Mill from a derelict site into a bustling social centre.

“It had been derelict for 30 years, roof falling in, no services, no electricity, no water,” Herbert said.

“It had been used as a place for local kids to hang out and play their music. There were people sleeping rough in it, it had human excrement in it. The place was a shithole basically, that no one else wanted.”


Faced with security problems that made the site a liability, the landlord gave The Long Table and its partner businesses a five-year lease, with a break clause at years three and four, at a near peppercorn rent of £15,000 a year. “The community rolled up their sleeves, people put in cash … it was just amazing,” said Herbert.

“We spent several hundred thousand [pounds] on making the building habitable, fixing up the roof, fixing up the flooring, which had big puddles in it and great big holes, painting the whole thing white so it looks clean, and then a lot of electrics and putting in a kitchen and things like that.”

The work was done in good faith, said Herbert, and on the hope that there would be the opportunity to extend the lease, or to be given the option to buy it if the landlord chose to sell.

Ah, yes, abject stupidity then. Capital investment on hte hope, not the nailed down contract.

There’s a reason us Bathonians think the Stroud people aren’t all that birght. Over and above their being too close to Slad.

16 thoughts on “So, erm, abject stupidity then?”

  1. Local restaurant/hotel has been struggling for years. Even featured on a Gordon Ramsay show. Latest incarnation was a back to badics approach and became a roaring success. So the landlord increased the rent and the tenant has said “sod you” closed up and gone back to London.

    I didnt even get the bloody chance to go ! It’s not fair.

  2. £15,000 p.a. may be extremely low, perhaps 50p per square foot judging by the photos, but it is certainly not a peppercorn rent with all that the term clearly implies to all but a guardian columnist.

    The lease must have been drafted, and signed by both parties, to exclude security under the LTA 1954 (I don’t think the later act changed this significantly). The tenant knew what he was and wasn’t getting.

    Unless the landlord was for some reason unwilling to offer a new lease at a market rent the chances are that the business was nowhere near the roaring commercial success the article suggests and the tenants optimistic aspirations for a further period of below market-value occupation have not been accepted.

    Finally the landlord might have been better advised to offer the 5 year lease with an initial 3-4 year rent free concession in order to at least get the market rent concept on the table, unless his sole intention was to get his derelict building fixed up in which case well played sir.

  3. The landlord gave The Long Table and its partner businesses a five-year lease

    Did none of these people think of getting some advice before embarking on this lunacy? The Citizens’ Advice Bureau would have helped for £0 and yet the graun manages to turn an act of commercial folly into a hard luck story of course.

  4. From an earlier guardian article. Quite a pet project of theirs:-

    It has also made enough money to employ 22 part-time and full-time members of staff on at least the real living wage – no work is done by volunteers – and hopes to replicate the model elsewhere

    Very praiseworthy but whats wrong with using volunteers? I help out at a similar CIC structured community cafe which would never survive without volunteers. It’s the nature of the business, there’s not much money in it.

    The Long Table can achieve all of this because of its business structure and model. Formed as a not-for-profit community interest company, it draws income from its sales and activities. This financial year, it drew no grant funding at all. “We turn over just about £500,000 a year. Next year, it should be about £550,000; and we spend about £550,000 on doing it,” says North

    In which case, allowing for the fact that you’ve only been paying £15k rent, you don’t have a viable business.

  5. The founder is the guy that runs Hobbs House Bakery, which is the sort of place that sells £6 loaves of bread to Cotswold MILFs. I’d have assumed he would have been more savvy than this, but maybe someone else was putting the money in?

  6. I live within a twenty minute drive of that restaurant, and we eat out a fair bit, and I’ve never even heard of the fucking place. It is a exquisitely Stroud story, though.

    The local paper reports the story thusly:

    A Gloucestershire not-for-profit restaurant is among a number of businesses being forced to move after the “shock” sale of their building.

    Not for profit. Check.
    Didn’t see this coming. Check.

    The community interest companies at Brimscombe Mill in Stroud say they are “broken” after being told they have just five months to find new homes – and 53 jobs are now on the line.

    ‘Broken’. Check.
    Didn’t think they had any responsibility to nail shit down for their 53 employees. Check.

    Businesses based at the community hub


    which is run by charity Grace Network


    include The Long Table, a food project

    ‘Project.’ Check.

    that operates on a pay-what-you-can model,

    Check. (Wish I’d known. Free food!)

    children’s retailer Kidstuff, the Furniture Bank; and delivery and repair business Bike Drop. It is the second time in three years the Long Table has had to move.

    Not learning for your mistakes. Check check check.

    The organisation, which was established in 2018 by Hobbs Bakery co-founder Tom Herbert

    Tom’s bakery currently shows £1.7 million in retained earnings and shareholders’ funds.

    and Grace Network’s Will Mansell

    ‘Total number of appointments 15’ at Companies House. If I worked for any of the others I’d be thinking about moving on.

    , was originally based at Brimscombe Port but was forced to move in 2021 after the site was acquired for housing.
    The Long Table has fed tens of thousands of people at a below-cost price, or charging nothing at all

    Insanity. Check.

    “This is a shock to us all,” the companies said in a statement. “We had been trying to engage with our old landlord to purchase the building or extend the lease, but [they] sold it in secret without any chance to counter.

    The old landlord knew you were wasters.

    We have spoken to the new landlord, but he has no interest in letting us stay on site.

    He’s told the new landlord.

    We are exploring other options for a home but we haven’t found anything viable yet.”
    According to the businesses, the new landlord is planning to use the site for warehouse space.
    “This isn’t just the end of our lease, it’s a matter of land justice,

    No such thing.


    No such verb.

    a community

    No such thing.

    built on countless hours renovating the property, and significant investment in materials. This community asset

    No such thing.

    is at risk of being lost due to the way land laws work and the way the broken ‘system’ works.

    Owning property is a broken system? I’m just off to take over Tom’s bakery.

    It doesn’t feel transparent, fair or right – and now we face destruction.”

    Or just find new premises. Lots of empty mills around Stroud. My mate owns one.

    Anyway. Got that off my chest. Some of these people are chancers, and some are nice idiots. Unclear to me which this lot fall into, but the £1.7 mil does suggest Tom knows how to run an actual business.

    I have heard of Slad – I won’t comment on the locals, but The Woolpack is one of the finest pubs in all Gloucestershire, and there are a lot of fine pubs in Gloucestershire (despite the best efforts of the government, the puritans and the pubcos).

  7. Slad was Cider With Rosie country about fifty years ago.

    Now it’s Giles the hedge fundy and Petunia the artisan organic food hobbyist company overseer and their two children at Cheltenham College country.

  8. Last time I was up there was, umm, 35 years back? Knew Lee’s daughter, Jessy, vaguley. Met him once ……

  9. How very Stroud.
    Have a look, if you dare, at their website. Bring a sick-bag, because what with all the smarmy, self-aggrandising, organically grown, responsibly sourced and sustainable local goodness this lot think they’re bringing to “the local community”, you’ll need one.
    I live 50 yards from one of this geezer Herbert’s bakeries, and I can tell you that it’s a complete bolt-up. Ridiculous prices for dry, dusty over-floured bread that, on the three occasions over the years I’ve tried it, has only ever resulted in the stale-tasting bread being chucked out. They seem to do more coffees and take away crap than bread now. The local Co-op does better bread at less than half the price.

  10. “built on countless hours renovating the property, and significant investment in materials.”

    Bog standard FRI lease, then.

  11. I’d never heard of Hobbs Bakery until a comment a couple of days ago by WB. Now I know to avoid it whenever I’m visiting family in Nailsworth and Brimscombe!

  12. “…Did none of these people think of getting some advice before embarking on this lunacy? The Citizens’ Advice Bureau would have helped for £0 and yet the graun manages to turn an act of commercial folly into a hard luck story of course.”

    I used to manage my local CAB – retired 20+ years ago. Giving advice on commercial tenancies would have got a referral to a local Solicitor (for £0). Nothing more.

  13. The Meissen Bison

    @decnine – apologies for my opaqueness. I meant that the CAB would do what you suggest which is of itself an indicator that one needs to embark on this kind of venture with some guidance.

  14. There is a fine balance to be struck here between a businessman* trying to exert “moral” pressure on the new owner to enter into an uncommercial arrangement by means of publicity in a newspaper* and that publicity exposing you as the businessman* to be an utter cretin.

    *assumed or asserted, although arguable

  15. Bloke in North Dorset

    Something not right in this story. My son recently spent 2 years moving a village shop in to bigger premises and setting up the new one on not-for-profit community interest company and he had to jump through quite a lot of hoops to qualify. I find it hard to belief they qualified on such a flimsy lease.

    From the Gov website:

    “ To set up a CIC, you’ll need:

    a ‘community interest statement’, explaining what your business plans to do

    an ‘asset lock’- a legal promise stating that the company’s assets will only be used for its social objectives, and setting limits to the money it can pay to shareholders”

    How does that flimsy lease square with those objectives?

    The owner of the estate my son works for had to make a lot of long term commitments and she was the one pushing the scheme.

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