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‘Kickstarting’ a pub Three local lads looking to reinvent Stalybridge’s nightlife
Thursday 3rd January 2019 @ 13:48 by Lee Wild
Features News Stalybridge

Most new business start the same way: a business loan from the bank to fund their new venture. However three friends from Tameside are looking to the public to help them turn their dream into a reality.

George Flett, 31, Ashley Rook, 33 and Phillip Shaw, 40, are long time friends with a dream –  to open their own pub and eatery in Stalybridge. Collectively they are ‘Swill and Swine’ – which they hope will become a trendy bar and eatery in the heart of the town.

To help them realise that dream they’ve taken to the crowdfunding website Kickstarter to turn the bar into a reality. They’re asking people to ‘pledge’ money to fund their business plan. The guys say they need £30,000 to outfit and open the bar – and Kickstarter stipulates that the full amount must be secured before they’re given the money – if they don’t reach the target no one is charged.

The trio realise that it’s an unusual way to fund a business, but are appealing to the local community to take a chance on the start-up and have an influence on how it’s going to run. George explained: “In a town like Stalybridge there’s not a great deal of investment but there’s a lot of people who have, to a certain extent, some income.

“We see quite a lot of businesses that would do really well under normal circumstances that are closed down due to business rates and having to get their loans paid back.

“It’s kind of like a pre-order. What were offering with the Kickstarter is not just us saying hey we want to start a bar – come and fund it, we are offering some amazing rewards when you pledge with us.”

Phil is incredibly passionate about the idea, and added: “At first we thought would it work? Could it work? And why should it work? The more we thought about it the more it made sense. It’s the way a lot of things are done these days.

“We’re using a very modern technique to progress with something that we think is needed in the community and something that we can do off our own back as opposed to be in thousands of pounds worth of debt with a bank.

“If we can do it anyone else can do it. People like us who don’t have anything except skills and passion can forge ahead and do something then other people can do it to.”

The pledges George spoke of range from the lower end, where just a small donation will get you a ‘shout-out’ on social media, to the “golden ticket” pledge of £8,000, which will get you and 100 friends the bar for the night, £20 each bar tab and food included. It’s certainly a departure from the usual way of opening a bar, but George says he’s hopeful that people will take a chance on this new idea: “It’s something that we’ve seen quite a lot of in major cities. I imagine it’s probably one of the first around here. It’s a great way of democratising the local communities spaces.”

The team need the entirety of the £30,000 figure to be pledged by the 13th of January if they’re to see any of the money, and Phil said that’s the minimum they’d need to get the project off the ground. He said: “That’s the minimum we thought we could do it for. That’s building the bar itself, finding the property, building the kitchen and all the equipment that goes with it and the operational costs to set it up – it seemed like a reasonable figure to ask for.”

George says they’ve already scouted a location, but that there are plenty of empty units in Stalybridge to choose from: “We’ve got our eye on a couple of places, this is the biggest question we get asked. Where is it going to be?

“We’d love to put it at the railway arches. However at this point because were still at the fundraising campaign stage its hard for us to be able to put a lease down anywhere. Stalybridge still has a lot of empty buildings and great facilities that are still there from the heyday.”

The group say that their bar will be unlike anything else already on offer in Stalybridge and say they want to be the first in a long line of new businesses that will breathe new life back into the town centres nightlife. Phil said: “We’re providing a place for you to hang out. It’s about community and bringing that back because Stalybridge had its heyday 20 years ago it’s still feeling the ramifications of that.

“We know it can be a vibrant, buzzing place again. There’s more than enough people who live there to make that a thing.

“It’s quite intimidating at the moment, especially at weekends. Bits of it are a ghost town, some of its dilapidated, there’s a lot of closed buildings – we’re trying to invigorate it and bring something back to show other people they can do it as well.

“We want to be the first of many other people to come in and show that this can be done. We know it best in those terms and we’ve identified it as such. If we can do it anyone can do it.”

Phil, Ash and George looked at the rejuvenation of other towns around Greater Manchester and thought some of the lessons learned there can be applied closer to home. Ashley explained that it’s about tying into the areas proud history, whilst bringing new appeal to the area: “They had a scheme to get everyone to say what do you want Stalybridge to be, what do you want to see happen? One of the big things what they spoke about was taking back the canals, taking back the market hall. That was the big thing they were focussing on – how do we rejuvenate the town but not change the background of it. We want to tie into that.”

George had his own thoughts on the prospective development, saying that any project needs to benefit the people of Stalybridge as well as themselves: “We’ve spent many a night at our local talking about this at depth and everyone we tell about it is really excited. We’re hoping that we can turn this excitement and positive vibe not just into a viable business for us but even jobs for others in Stalybridge and other businesses doing the same thing and following suit.

“It might seem a little bit absurd but if it can work in a town like Stalybridge it can work anywhere. We really believe in it.”

Phil added: “We love the town and that’s why we want to do something there, more than anywhere else.”

Ideas for what they want the bar to be have been discussed at length, but they plan on bringing a wide variety of flavours to the food on offer at Swill and Swine. Ash, a classically-trained chef who has worked in the industry for 17 years is heading up the teams culinary offering and is excited to do something different in Stalybridge. He said: “The idea is its not just burgers. We’re going to do ramen because I really love ramen and try and tie back to different cultures.

“You can come in and get a burger and a pint but it’s not just going to be a hamburger on a bun. It’s more of a melting pot of ideas than sitting down and having a burger. It ties back to whats currently in Stalybridge – for food currently there’s a wetherspoons, a couple of cafes that are pretty decent but they’re shut by one o’clock, there’s no where really to go for food at nighttime.”

It’s not just all going to be about food and drink, with the guys wanting to create a social space for the town. George said: “Between us we’ve all got great ideas of what we want it to look like and its going to be fantastic. We’ve got some great people on board that when we’re funded we’re going to be able to get them to come in and do the decor, do the lighting, the fixtures and fittings things like that.

“I think whats really important here is that it’s more of a reflection of Stalybridge than of us guys. We want to create a large wall for exhibition space. We’ve got some friends who are absolutely fantastic photographers of the Peak District national park, we’ve got artists that we’d love to exhibit their work there and that ties back into it being a social space.

“We’re all avid films buffs so we’re really looking forward to getting a cinema night going and if we can get some films where we have the director or part of the crew to come out and do a Q&A – these aren’t absurd ideas; we’ve done it in Manchester with my friends, we can do it in Stalybridge too.”

Swill and Swine hope they’re the first in a wave of new, modern businesses that will open in the town, paving the way for others. George said that once they’re established, they’ll be looking to help others start using the same methods: “We’ve already discussed this that once the business is off the ground were going to be looking to kickstart other places around stalybridge to give back.

“I think that when you go to our page and you see that thirty thousand pounds is a daunting number. However the population of stalybridge in the last year was I think 23,000 people roughly. If everyone gives us a pound we’ve nailed this!

“You’re not asking for one large pot of money from one organisation. Like Phil said this is how people do business these days in a really unique grassroots way.

We really want to hear from you, we want to hear from people about what they want to do in Stalybridge.”

Despite it’s unusual premise, the trio are hoping that the public will get behind the idea and influence what they would like from the bar. Crowdfunding is open until the 13th of January and offers a range of rewards for pledging. To check it out for yourself visit Swill and Swine on Kickstarter.