Pubs and music venues are social hubs of local communities.  The pressures facing community pubs and venues before lockdown were huge, with many sadly closing.  As we move out of lockdown and into a new, socially distanced normal – with all that it means for mental health and wellbeing, social isolation, loneliness and reinventing public space – community pubs and venues will be needed more than ever, but will no doubt will face even bigger new challenges.

In Liverpool, Co-op Party councillors have used the Assets of Community Value (ACV) register to protect and boost community pubs and venues.  Under the Localism Act 2011, councils have to maintain a register of community assets.  There’s a six month cooling off period before assets listed as ACV can be sold, during which time community organisations, including co-ops, have the right to bid.

The first pub we got listed was the Caledonia, or the Cali, which has been a feature of Liverpool’s Georgian Quarter since 1838.  It’s a vegan pub with craft beer doing live music.  In 2013 the then owners tried to sell it so the building could become student accommodation.  We worked with the community and Liverpool Branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) and got the pub listed as an ACV.  The licensee, Laura King, was able to get a new lease and the Cali has been thriving ever since.

The Roscoe Head is another historic pub we helped get listed as an ACV.  Dating back to 1870, no jukebox or fruit machine, the Roscoe Head is the only pub on Merseyside and one of only five UK pubs to have appeared in every edition of the CAMRA Good Beer Guide since it was first published in 1974.  The pub’s a tied pub.  The tie is an outdated semi-feudal model going back 400 years, forcing tied pubs to buy their beer exclusively from the companies that owns them.  There’s been a long-running, but not yet successful campaign to support landlady Carol Ross to cut the tie.  Increasingly, it’s not breweries owning tied pubs but a new generation of pubcos, more interested in short-term property development.  The pubco that owns the Roscoe Head wants to demolish it and redevelop the site with student accommodation.  The ACV listing has thwarted that for the last five years.

Parr Street Studios is another Liverpool venue under thread.  A Grammy-Award winning recording studio complex, the largest outside London, it’s also home to two bars with a vibrant live music scene, a boutique hotel and offices housing start-ups and social businesses.  Coldplay, Pulp, Echo and the Bunnymen, Doves, Cast and Paolo Nutini have all recorded there.  Originally owned by the pension fund of 70s prog-rock band Genesis, it was saved from the bulldozers in 2006.  A few weeks ago a planning application was submitted by property developers to demolish the studios and build a new hotel and residential scheme there.  There’s a grassroots community campaign underway led by social activist Sonia Bassey of the UK’s largest African live music festival Africa Oye, a tenant of Parr Street, local musicians and local councillors to get Parr Street Studios listed as an ACV to retain this important part of Liverpool music economy.

As a Co-op Party councillor, I’m a big supporter of the Love It? List It! campaign. In Liverpool, we’ve done it the hard way.  We’ve build grassroots campaigns to save pubs and venues one by one.  Love It? List It! and the backing of the Co-op Party brings new resources to support grassroots, community-minded campaigns like some of these.  We can all share successes and failures, good practice and bad with each other, connect with like-minded civil society organisations like CAMRA, working together to build a new economy based around community, co-operation and solidarity.

Councillor Nick Small is a Labour & Co-operative Councillor at Liverpool City Council.  He tweets @cllrnicksmall