'Devastated' staff are fundraising to take over two pubs in Flackwell Heath after their closure was announced at the beginning of the month. 

Emma Jamieson, 35, manager of The Stag in Flackwell Heath, said she was told by the pub’s landlord that they had decided to close it, alongside The Green Dragon and The Three Horseshoes, at the beginning of May.

She and The Stag’s head chef Charlie Himi, 33, were left “devastated” by the news and immediately set out to learn how they might take ownership of at least two of the sites to retain their important function as vital community hubs.

Just as the co-workers were preparing to ink a deal to take over The Stag and The Green Dragon last Friday (May 10), however, a financial hurdle presented itself in relation to the previous ownership – leaving Emma and Charlie “in limbo” until a deal is agreed or until they can raise £20,000.

It was a blow that came after an already emotionally turbulent week, Emma said, and one that was exacerbated by potentially jeopardising the living situations of staff, some of whom – including the 35-year-old herself – live onsite.

“I’ve worked here for seven years, and the pub and the community are so close to my heart. We call ourselves a dysfunctional family, and we’re so passionate about giving something to people in the area.

“For some of our regulars, coming to us is the only time they go out. One of them cried her eyes out after she heard we were closing – she said, ‘This is all I have, I don’t know what to do’.”

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Just a few weeks ago, Emma’s team at The Stag raised £2,000 for Kaiden Edwards, a nine-year-old boy from the village whose cancer sadly returned months after he finished treatment for a brain tumour.

They also delivered free boxes of food to vulnerable residents during the COVID-19 pandemic – a testament to the “love and passion” of staff who care deeply about their community.

“We hoped that The Stag would only be closed for a week while we sorted everything out, and we planned to do a little refurbishment before the reopening.

“We’re just stuck waiting now, which is really frustrating. But when we were doing the painting and changing some of the furniture and planting new things, so many staff came along to help and bought things out of their own pockets to make it look nice.”

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Emma, Charlie and the other staff at the three pubs have created a GoFundMe page in the hopes of raising at least some of the £20,000 costs.

Emma said: “I don’t think we’ll raise that kind of massive amount, but whatever we raise – if the other issues get solved and we don’t have to pay it – we would definitely use it to give back to our customers.

“We might be able to do a fun day or an open bar or put it towards further renovations. The important thing is to protect these places, that are so loved by the people that go to them.”