A WINSFORD pub company that almost folded after a lorry crashed into one of its premises has scooped a major award.

Cornerstone Inns, which runs pubs in Winsford, Middlewich and Northwich, took home The Best Community Pub Operator at The Publican Awards, the industry’s version of the Oscars.

Comedian Michael McIntyre presented the award to Damon Horrill, Cornerstone Inns founder and Neil Walker, Cornerstone Inns director, at the 25th anniversary event in Battersea Evolution.

"There are tens of thousands of community pub operators in this country so to be short listed felt like a great achievement," Damon said.

“The awards tend to go to the successful corporates at national level so was thrilled when the judges decided we deserved it most.

“This award gives us a great platform to show the country how we are trailblazing up here in the middle of Cheshire.”

The company was brought to its knees when a salt lorry overturned into the beer garden of the popular nightspot, de bees, in October 2013.

Despite facing such adversity, Cornerstone Inns has managed to thrive over the last 12 months, largely helped by its innovative Community Pub Hub model.

The business model is alternative for the PubCo model, which ties landlords to breweries or large companies, and has drawn praise from many within the industry.

Ed Bedington, editor of the Publican’s Morning Advertiser, which organises the awards, said: “This is the kind of company that epitomises the ethos of what a community pub operator should be.

“The business is built around the communities it serves, and the plans to return the pubs back into local ownership is one to be applauded.

“Damon and his team are looking to create a community-based, sustainable model which potentially could be rolled out across other areas in the UK.”

Cornerstone Inns runs The Red Lion, The Gate Inn, The Princes Feathers and de bees in Winsford, The Bowling Green in Northwich and The Kings Lock in Middlewich.

All of the pubs were previously failed PubCo sites.

“Each pub has its own micro community,” Damon said.

“It's interesting to be knitting them together and seeing a wider sense of community develop across what is becoming known as The Weaver Valley.

“Given what we've been through, we’re extremely grateful for the opportunities this award brings. Growth will mean more jobs locally and more local beer on our bars.”