Locals living in a small NSW country town have pitched in to buy their local pub in a bid to save it from closing.

The farming village of Grong Grong in the Riverina had already lost a school, railway station, and police station, but locals were determined not to lose their pub.

Locals came up with plan to buy $5000 shares in The Royal Hotel, which was built in 1875. The pub now has 169 shareholders – mostly locals and those connected to the town – and has raised more than $1m, double the amount expected.

One investor is Cynthia Mitchell, an emeritus professor from of the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology, Sydney.

Mitchell, who has a personal connection to the town, told the ABC that Grong Grong provides a model for sustainable investment for other small towns.

“It’s practical and it’s doable and it has potential for other kinds of assets,” Dr Mitchell said.

“It’s about a community and the broader community – people like me – stepping up to invest in something that will generate a whole lot of value.”

In early 2020, new owners moved from Sydney to take over the pub, but Covid hit soon after and the family struggled to access assistance from the government having only managed the pub for a couple of months.

When the pub went up for sale mid-pandemic, there was little interest from potential buyers.

The co-op model is shaping up as a viable alternative for small country towns that face losing local services such as pubs, and it offers the additional advantage of reinvesting the profits back into the local economy.

The cooperative management model sees locals buy a share of a business whether that be a pub, store or post office in order to keep these services going in their town.

In 2020, locals in the northern Victorian town of Lockington took over their local pub through a structure known as the Lockington Community Hotel Cooperative, and similar pub co-op models have been implemented in Sea Lake and Nandaly in north-west Victoria.

The Victorian town of Colbinabbin has used the co-op model to take over the struggling general store, and the community of Bridgewater near Bendigo formed a co-op to take over the town’s post office.

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