In 2014, members of RVT Future got Lambeth Council to recognise the Tavern as an asset of community value, or ACV.
We see this as a step on the way to making the RVT the nation’s first building listed by English Heritage for its importance to the LGBTQ community.
What does ACV status mean?
ACV status means that, in the future, the owner may not sell the pub without first seeing whether any community group would like to bid for it. If there is interest from the community, no sale can take place for six months – time for the community group to put a bid together. But the owner is under no obligation to accept that bid, or to sell at anything other than market value.
The Tavern’s current owner is Immovate, an Austrian property development company who specialise in restoring heritage buildings in city centres. They have repeatedly declined requests to explain their long-term plans for the site, or to express their commitment to maintaining it as a site of LGBTQ socialising and performance.
Is there now a planning restriction on what can be done with the Tavern?
ACV status is not a planning restriction – but it means that any application for planning permission, or to change the use of the building, will be subject to a higher level of scrutiny by Lambeth Council.
If the RVT were to become a listed building following English Heritage’s investigation, this would present more substantial restrictions to redevelopment of the site.
If the Tavern were put up for sale in the future, could the community buy it?
This would be a challenging but exciting thing to do, and we have explored how a community buy-out might work.
One model would be a co-operative, where subscribers have an equal stake in the enterprise. Another would be a community interest company. This is where the purpose of the company is guaranteed in law, there’s a lock on assets so that the building can’t be disposed of (except to a company with a similar purpose) and there’s a cap on what profits can be distributed to shareholders.
Raising money would be a formidable task but there is huge community interest in the Tavern which we think could sustain and finance a bid. We envisage a combination of equity, grants, donations and loans – depending on what ownership model we were to choose.
However, all that is academic unless the owners signal that they would entertain a community buy-out. At present, they are under no obligation to do so.