In a world-first for ‘crowd-funding’ campaigns, the “heart” of a tiny Victorian town will be reborn.
A fire destroyed Buchan’s Caves Hotel on 8 April, 2014, leaving the town of just 400 people without its meeting place and best reason for tourists to stop.
“Men stood in the streets in their pyjamas and cried,” town resident Lyndel “Lindi” Moore told PubTIC.
The place for the community to meet and talk, and celebrate births, deaths and marriages, and welcome strangers with warm smiles, the pub was sorely missed and its absence felt by both residents and businesses.
Familiar with the tech-driven phenomenon of crowd-funding through sites such as Pozible, Moore called a community meeting a few months ago, to garner support for this solution to the problem of building a new pub.
“We expected 50 people but had about 200 at the meeting. The look on their faces when I suggested trying crowd-funding – they were aghast.
“I said ‘At the end of day, we’ve got nothing to lose, so will you all please consider it.
“One man stood up at the back and said ‘We’re doing this!’ – then everybody stood up and applauded.
“Since then, they have rallied constantly and not once given up. ‘Let’s Build a Pub’ became a war cry around town. It truly is a case of the little engine that could.”
The 60-day campaign had to raise $600,000 toward a new building on the existing land, which is still owned by the same locals. The former operators relinquished any further claim on the business after insurance paid out for the fire.
The campaign concluded last night – coming in at a total of $605,146, pledged by 1,694 supporters.
The rules of the funding system mean the target had to be met or the devotees would get nothing. The money raised was to allow capital raising of another $300,000 toward the full build.
But Moore reports the additional money may no longer be necessary, as so many businesses and local residents – many of whom have no internet access to access Pozible – have offered help, donations and materials in place of an online pledge.
The funding service today reported to Moore that the campaign was not only the largest success seen in Australia, but so far as it can ascertain, the first pub in the world saved by crowd-funding.
Organisers of the Let’s Build a Pub campaign enlisted local help in other ways too; around 25 other pubs and small businesses in the Gippsland region encouraged people to put their spare change into “Buy A Beer for Buchan” tins.
“It’s been the most enormous show of camaraderie, by the pub industry and the community,” continued Moore, who admits she feels like she has “been hit by a bat” today, in the wake of the long, emotion-charged campaign, and last night’s well-deserved after-party.
Another town meeting is scheduled for this Sunday, and Moore reports a big building company will be present to discuss the immediate plans for construction. “No messing around.”
The stark reality of being pub-less is both specific to and highly problematic in small towns. The flow-on effects can be widespread, and Moore says if the ambitious campaign hadn’t worked “at some stage the town would fall off the face of the earth.”
Buchan is around 350 kilometres south-east of Melbourne, and will soon have a new pub.