By Angela Green
The opening of a new community café at The George in Bethersden, Kent, is helping to bring local people together, creating ways for people to connect and bringing new meaning to the phrase ‘popping to the local’.
The George Café, which launched a month after the pub reopened as a community enterprise, provides an opportunity for people living alone, mothers and toddlers, families, and groups to meet and socialise in a relaxed environment and welcoming space.
A selection of games and puzzles is available for children to play with and there is a secure garden area with outdoor games for when parents and carers want to enjoy their coffee or tea and cake outside on the pub’s terrace.
Local residents and home-workers are also being encouraged to bring their laptops to take advantage of the super-fast Wi-Fi and work in the comfort of the café.
The café was opened with the expert help and a Community Services Fund grant from Pub is The Hub, the not-for-profit organisation that helps pubs to diversify and provide essential local services.
The George Café also supports local suppliers including Bloss coffee and Pluckley tea, with delicious cakes provided by some of Bethersden’s home bakers. There are plans to extend its trading hours later in the year, it is currently open Wednesday to Saturday 10am to 4pm.
An initiative to support local artists is also being launched, giving them wall space to displaying pieces which are also for sale.
Michele Sadler, Community Officer for The George said: “The café has been a great success at bringing new customers into the pub as well as reconnecting the village as a whole, and helping people locally to overcome loneliness and isolation. There is a warm welcome for everyone at The George Café.”
Tim Tempest, regional advisor at Pub is The Hub, said: “This pub is truly at the heart of its community. This café will become a focal point for villagers to come together and provide an opportunity for more social interaction in this rural area.”
This is echoed in feedback left by locals. One recent visitor wrote: “We are so pleased that it is becoming the focal point of the community again and the ‘go to’ meeting point for people.”
The George reopened in May 2023 as a wet-led pub, focusing on drinks-only as the kitchen needs additional work. Refurbishment of the kitchen is now on-going, and the team is currently recruiting for a new chef and will be launching a new menu with a view to starting a restaurant service later in the Autumn.
The historic freehouse, which can trace its origins back to the 17th century, closed during the second lockdown in 2020. A group of village residents launched a campaign to buy the pub, setting up The George Community Ltd, a Community Benefit Society, in August 2021 and successfully taking over the pub in February 2023.